Student fights punishment for displaying American flag

CALIFORNIA — Ahigh school student is alleging school officials violated her First Amendmentrights when they ordered her to remove a small American flag from her backpocket.

Malia Fontana, a 15-year-old sophomore at Fallbrook HighSchool, appeared at a press conference yesterday alongside representatives fromthe American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego.

”I don’tthink it was right,” Fontana said of the school’s actions in an ACLUpress release.

Superintendent Tom Anthony of Fallbrook Union High School Districttold The San Diego Union-Tribune thatthere will be an inquiry into incident.

Anthony was unavailable forcomment Friday, but in theUnion-Tribune article, he said thesituation will be fully investigated next week when district employees andstudents return from spring break.

Anthony told the paper the schoolhas no policy banning flags, but that actions were taken against Fontana becauseother students were disrespectfully using the flag as a cape, forinstance.

Fontana was asked to remove the American flag from herpocket March 31, during a week of protests by California students in response toproposed changes to the nation’s immigration laws, according to the ACLUpress release.

The ACLU press release said Fontana’s actionscaused no violence or school disruption, and asked for the school to apologizefor the incident and clear Fontana’s disciplinary record.

The Union-Tribune reportedthat the ACLU said it would wait 10 days for a response from the district beforeconsidering filing a lawsuit.

”Freedom of speech is the firstprinciple of a free society, and our public schools have a special duty to honorthe constitutional rights of students,” said David Blair-Loy, legaldirector for the ACLU of San Diego in the press release. ”Unjustifiedcensorship of students undermines freedom of speech for all.”