Following a student’s lawsuit, a federal judge ruled last week that a rural Colorado school district has the right to prevent a high school student from wearing a sash displaying both the Mexican and American flags during her graduation ceremony this weekend.
The judge explained that wearing a sash as part of a graduation ceremony is considered a form of speech endorsed by the school, rather than the student expressing their personal views.
The ruling further stated that the school district has the authority to regulate this form of speech according to its own preferences and the type of graduation event it wishes to organize.
This decision comes after the student requested an interim restraining order that would have enabled the student to wear the sash for graduation. A final decision is pending.
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Attorneys for the student argued that the school district was violating the student’s free-speech rights and that it is inconsistent for the school district to allow Native American attire while prohibiting her sash representing her Mexican and American heritage.
The student expressed her strong connection to both cultures, describing herself as a “200 percenter,” fully American and fully Mexican. At a recent school board meeting, she voiced her concerns about the district’s discrimination against different cultural heritages.
In response, Holly Ortiz, representing the Garfield County School District 16, argued that allowing Native American regalia is a requirement in Colorado and is fundamentally different from wearing flags representing countries.
Ortiz cautioned that permitting the graduate to wear the U.S. and Mexican flags as a sash could potentially open the door to displaying offensive material.