The first California flag to feature a grizzly bear, created by William L. Todd in 1846, was made to be a symbol of strength and unyielding resistance while California was still part of Mexico. The flag now represents different ideas, including surfing, sun and, unfortunately for the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, gangs.
In the beginning of this school year, parents and students of MPUSD noticed a number of new rules restricting clothing promoting the California flag.
But would prohibiting proud Californians from wearing their distinguished state flag to school really lower gang-related violence?
The dress code bans students from wearing “items with a reference to the California flag, map, star or bear,” including “specific California cities, geographic areas, area codes.” Students in MPUSD are also not allowed to wear anything referencing “SO CAL, NOR CAL, CEN CAL, Cali Life Style, and/or Bay Area.”
If there were a ban on Giants apparel in San Francisco, I’m sure that all hell would break loose. So how is banning the state flag any different?
Some claim that these restrictive dress codes are violating their First Amendment right to freedom of speech, but according to NationalGangCenter.gov, legislature has been passed which states that “gang-related apparel is hazardous to the health and safety of the school environment.”
“The children of this state have the right to an effective public school education,” states the National Gang Center website, “and also have the Constitutional right to be safe and secure in their persons at school,” which are unable to happen with the threat of gangs and gang violence being a distraction at school.
Yet how do we know that the school board isn’t just confusing a new fad with gang-related clothing? As many of us know, clothing featuring the California flag is sold nationwide by huge name brands like PacSun, which promotes the “California Lifestyle,” not the California gangs.
Just how far will school districts go, and where is the line? With public school boards having the ability to restrict any clothing they think may be gang-related, the possibilities of what can and will be banned are endless.