Student fights punishment for displaying American flag





CALIFORNIA -- A high school student is alleging school officials violated her First Amendment rights when they ordered her to remove a small American flag from her back pocket.

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

''I don't think it was right,'' Fontana said of the school's actions in an ACLU press release.

Superintendent Tom Anthony of Fallbrook Union High School District told The San Diego Union-Tribune that there will be an inquiry into incident.

Anthony was unavailable for comment Friday, but in the Union-Tribune article, he said the situation will be fully investigated next week when district employees and students return from spring break.

Anthony told the paper the school has no policy banning flags, but that actions were taken against Fontana because other students were disrespectfully using the flag as a cape, for instance.

Fontana was asked to remove the American flag from her pocket March 31, during a week of protests by California students in response to proposed changes to the nation's immigration laws, according to the ACLU press release.

The ACLU press release said Fontana's actions caused no violence or school disruption, and asked for the school to apologize for the incident and clear Fontana's disciplinary record.

The Union-Tribune reported that the ACLU said it would wait 10 days for a response from the district before considering filing a lawsuit.

''Freedom of speech is the first principle of a free society, and our public schools have a special duty to honor the constitutional rights of students,'' said David Blair-Loy, legal director for the ACLU of San Diego in the press release. ''Unjustified censorship of students undermines freedom of speech for all.''


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