National flags ignite firestorm at Atascadero Junior High School
May 7, 2011
A disturbance erupted in the Atascadero Junior High School cafeteria on Thursday when several Caucasian students began waving American flags at students who were waving Mexican flags in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, said Kim Spinks, Atascadero Unified School District’s director of human resources.
During lunchtime, four Hispanic students were proudly displaying one large and several small Mexican flags.
Several parents and students said the mother of a Caucasian student asked her son to pass out small American flags to classmates. The boy gave the flags to a handful of his friends who began waving them at the Hispanic students, said a student who asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation.
Battling back, an Hispanic student told the Caucasian students to stop waving “those flags.”
Shouting across the cafeteria, one of the Caucasian students countered, “We can if we want, it is our country.”
Concerned the situation was getting out of control, Lori Thomas Hicks, the principal at Atascadero Junior High School, called Spinks to ask if she could commandeer the flags from the students. Spinks agreed that if the American and Mexican flags were causing a disruption they should be seized.
“Mrs. Thomas Hicks then took the flags away from the students, returning them at the end of the day,” Spinks added. “There were no suspensions, no riot and no police involvement.”
Even though their flags had been commandeered, the former flag wavers began screaming, cursing and advancing on one another, the student said. The end of lunch bell helped diffuse the situation.
However, a student who was not involved in the altercation said racial tensions are still running high at the school and another flag was taken from a student on Friday.
When initially asked about the incident, the person who answered the phone at the school said that the principal was gone for the day and “nothing occurred anyway.” However, district officials confirmed the racial disturbance that is reminiscent of the Gilroy incident that captured national attention last year.
Cinco de Mayo is the observance of Mexico’s victory over superior French forces in the battle of 1862 and is not a national holiday in Mexico. Cinco de Mayo celebrations were popularized in the United States as a symbol that Hispanic Americans can overcome this country’s white power structure.