National flags ignite firestorm at Atascadero Junior High School

May 7, 2011

By KAREN VELIE

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.


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mkaney

You know, the people of Atascadero ought not to complain too loudly about hispanics… because if I were not apply reason and go with my gut feeling and anecdotal evidence, I would probably have a few choice things to say about the people in that city, and they might find themselves treated in San Luis Obispo the way they treat and talk about Mexicans up there. You see how that works? I would strongly caution them to avoid getting up any kind of moral/racial/nationalistic high horse because the irony would be rich.


Crusader

More and more Atascadero feels like the East Palo Alto of the Central Coast.


Typoqueen

This mother is like mother that stands behind her daughter rooting her on to fight, ‘hit her hit, don’t let her get away with that’. The mother is to blame for this entire issue. It doesn’t matter if they don’t celebrate this in Mexico, so what if hispanics want one day a year to show pride of their heritage, good for them. Some stupid redneck mom comes in and basically says’s ”we’re better than you, come kids hate the Mexicans’. This could be a great opportunity to teach the kids tolerance.


mkaney

I don’t generally agree with your views, but I think you’re spot on with regard to this incident. Unfortunately, the racist brigade is busy trying to make this link go viral as evidenced by the comment voting, and these are not people who have any interest in logic if it does not support their predetermined view.


asthecrowphlies

Thank you Typoqueen . Where is this redneck mother when we really need her . She could march out those kids with flags when those un-American Irish puff up their chest and drink all that good beer on a work day afternoon . I think Saint Patrick Day is much bigger over here than in Ireland , too . I have seen more than a few Irish flags out also . Speaking of flags , How about Danish Days …. wow …. how un-American . You know I could go on right ? Celebrating your heritage is not un-American . Now let me see , who lived in California before we got here ? Indians and Mexicans , I can make the argument that many of them are one and the same . By the way , does any one know the break down of brown and black soldiers in our volunteer army defending the flag that this white mother is waving ? HAPPY MOTHERS DAY !!!!


zaphod
mkaney

Everyone is skirting the REAL issue here.. and that has nothing to do with flag waving and everything to do with the fact that the American kids were intentionally trying to antagonize the Mexican kids. No matter what sort of patriotism or racism anyone wants to focus on, THAT is really the core issue. It was wrong, they knew, and they knew what kind of reaction they would get, and they did it anyway.


Crusader

I think that’s PARTIALLY correct. The real issue is that a parent tried to use their child and their child’s friends to express the parent’s position. That’s terrible no matter how you slice it. Kids are not political pawns and a junior high is not a chessboard — not that the parent who handed out the flags has ever played chess…


hotdog

Well, your first comment is wrong-i said that very thing at 6:33 here in response to Cindy’s wild rants. We agree that the basic issue is either/or and nationalism and racism. Good for you, Typo, Wiseguy and others who see this for what it is.


In case any of the students are reading these posts I offer this bit of history. Hundreds of years ago the white man invaded this land from Europe. We (yup, I’m regular ‘ol white trash) then proceeded to murder the locals and steal their land. Over the last few hundred years we managed to steal California and Texas (I wish we would give this one back) from Mexico. And now we have the gall to look on our hispanic citizens with suspicion and contempt. Disgusting….


To the so called ‘mother’ who passed out the crummy little stars and stripes, shame on you. SHAME ON YOU.


mkaney

Most Americans are unwilling or too insecure to accept the reality of our past.


Crusader

Or too ignorant of our country’s past…


undertow

How many slaves did your family own and how are you repaying your families debt to those? Perhaps your family was involved in the Nazi Germany crimes as well, do you know for sure and does it really matter since were most all guilty aren’t we? . Instead of dwelling on what 90% of us alive now had no part of and do not need to apologize for, why don’t we just make sure it never happens again ?


mkaney

That is EXACTLY what we’re trying to do right here, right now.


Crusader

I’m in the midst of reading General U.S. Grant’s personal memoirs. In it he talks about just how crudely and wrong the US acted towards the Republic of Texas and Mexico. One of the reasons we have people like “Cindy” and the flag passing-out woman is because they don’t make the effort to read and think about books like this…


whatisup

Hotdog – Since you are guilty of stealing their land you need to give it back. Then please go back to Germany or Ireland or where ever you came from. Then and only then will you have done the right thing. Anything less and you are a hypocrite.


mkaney

Maybe y’all should read a dictionary so you know what a hypocrite is. He’s not saying that anyone should give any land back, and then not doing it himself. There’s a huge difference between hypocricy and a FACTUAL discussion of the past.


whatisup

mkaney – In that case y’all got to stuff a sock in it. From the dawn of human history until the end of WWII standard operating procedure was that land was conquered and if you couldn’t defend your land it became somebody else’s. Since WWII this practice has diminished. You and your friends who go on and on about the Europeans throwing the natives off their land, but you are trying to apply today’s morality on people who knew no other way than what they did hundreds of years ago. The fact that many of you whities feel guilty about it goes to your own warped sense of guilt as though you are the ones that did it.


Get over it and move on with your lives because nothing is going to change, you will die and the next generations will not care. My Grandfather was born in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy which previously had been the Austrian Empire, which previously had been the Holy Roman Empire, etc., etc.


Undoubtedly, many of the Native American tribes had thrown other Native American tribes off their land in the thousands of years before the Europeans showed up. We just happen to live in that sliver of historical time when the world became connected due to electricity, steamships and airplanes and the practice of conquering a land to permanently occupy it has become taboo. For you and your friends to feel guilty because you happen to be white and it happens the whites did most of the successful conquering before the new era of the United Nations is plain silly because it was pure luck how things turned out. If electricity had been discovered during Rome’s heyday you would be a gladiator.


mkaney

There is a huge difference between being REAL and feeling GUILTY. Try thinking for yourself and not just parroting a cliche argument that presumes I said something I didn’t,


Mr. Holly

Well I guess our local PD may have had an inside tip of what may be going on in our schools. They held their simulated hostage/shooting exercise at the high school a week or so ago.

Are we preparing for another Spanish American War? Atascadero has been pretty lucky regarding all of the racial incidents that are going on in the county. Apparently “they” have discovered Atascdero.

Next time I wonder if “they” will be waving their knives and guns like what apparently is going on every where else.


mkaney

Oh man….your shocking ignorance is bad enough, but you’ve got 5 thumbs up and 0 thumbs down. That’s REALLY disconcerting and not a very good sign for the future of this county. What 19th century rock did you all crawl out from under? Do you all really just gobble up this anecdotal B.S.? Do you not understand the difference between correlational/indirect relationships and causal/direct relationships?


Learning is not just about factual knowledge… it’s also about thinking about HOW you think, learning to understand logical fallacies and applying that your beliefs.. If this isn’t making any sense to you, then it may be a sign that you aren’t really as independent and rational of a thinker as you could be.


I’ll make an analogy for ya… you know those people dancing in the streets of Arab countries yelling DEATH TO AMERICA! – you’re like half a step away from being as ignorant as they are… The difference in behavior can be accounted for by the conditions you’re living in, and that’s about it.


TheRazor

When I first heard about this story, I thought, “Really?” If the issue is about flags, take the flags away from everyone: equal opportunity discipline.


The mother — who handed out the American flags in response to those waving the Mexican flag — should be scrutinized more than the school. What kind of values is she teaching her child in a country that serves as one giant melting pot of different cultures? Is she instilling into her child the values of patriotism or is she trying to communicate a message of American superiority over others who are from — or have relatives who are from — different countries?


It’s a little disturbing that a mother would selfishly force her child to engage in her own political, personal whims.


Crusader

The sources for BOTH the American and Mexican flags should be scrutinized…


TheRazor

25 downvotes so far. Seems like a misunderstanding. Everyone is entitled under free speech to wave their country’s flag, but if you wave your flag as a means of provocation, then the school has every right to step in, take the flags, and return them when school is out for the day.


r0y

Yeah, that is not how your initial post came across to me. I sort of saw what point you were trying to make, but when you started making assumptions about the mother “selfishly” forcing her child to engage in “her own political, personal whims” – you lost me. That’s a bit too much assumption. Or maybe what I see as one person’s pride (hurt) in that her country was not being represented (or worse) might have been acting patriotically? We really do not know, but I would not want to put words in her mouth, or thoughts in her head. I usually mark posts down that do that, and we all do it occasionally.


I do like your reply (above), that is a better take on it; and it can work both ways. Provocation is provocation, as patriotism is patriotism (or cultural pride).


TheRazor

Sorry for the assumption. It’s strange, though. Mexican kids celebrate Cinco De Mayo by waving their flags, and mom comes in, giving USA flags to her son to pass out. It’s not the 4th of July. What is she doing? Why would she go through the trouble of doing that? What’s the point was she trying to make?


I think fewer assumptions would be made if Karen spoke to the mother about this.


mkaney

A perfect opportunity for a CAPABLE educator to step in and engineer a situation where everyone can wave whatever flag they want, even disagree about their politics, and even speak their minds… without it leading to serious conflict. But instead they took the easy way out and just censored everyone. That is NOT an appropriate way to handle the problem.


The high road is rarely the easy road. But it is a road worth travelling. That is a basic idea that underlies American values. Of course it would be EASIER not to have a first amendment, and maintaining first amendment rights requires that citizens learn to rise above their own hangups for a higher purpose. If we do not teach these skills and ideas and observe them consistently EVEN with children then I guarantee you that our ability to maintain our rights and uphold our constitutional values will fade away.


Apparently ignorance is the lesson plan throughout most of the education system though. Safety before rights… the EXACT opposite of the ideas America was founded on.


Crusader

What “solution” do you suggest? Keep in mind that we are talking about a junior high and not a college campus.


It does bug me to think a school should actually have to set a rule where students cannot bring flags to school. On the other hand if the students are not prepared and willing to shoulder the responsibility that comes with displaying any national flag, perhaps the best solution is simply leaving them all at home? Some people feel threatened, angry and/or disgusted by the sorts of displays we are talking about here. But it can be very difficult to “engineer” a solution that is equitable to all.


I would love to see for example the low-foreheads down at Pismo and elsewhere leave their Confederate stars & bars battle flags home — most of which are probably outside of this county. The level of ignorance, poor judgement, willingness to offend others (particularly in a place like California where such flags are not part of the historical fabric of the region) and outright stupidity required to fly such garbage is truly remarkable. On the other hand do I want a law that forbids odious behavior? Nope.


mkaney

I think that it really couldve been as simple as adult supervision. Since lunch was over and these kids were going to class anyway, let them keep their flags. If someone was going to do something stupid in a classroom, they should be punished appopriately, flag related or not. But preventing them from doing that altogether really just eliminates the need for them to think and to choose the appropriate behavior for the environment.


Cindy

Anybody that attacks or threatens an American for waving an American Flag is guilty or should be held guilty of a hate crime. They need to go to jail for a year and then be deported (or any family members) if they or any family members are here illegally. People like that are nothing but trouble and there is no reason for us to put up with it.

We have the La Raza racist social studies to thank for this. Those classes should be banned.


mkaney

Do you really mean that? I know you are more level headed than that. Should they be banned, or just not paid for with public money? And shouldn’t it be anyone that attacks or threatens anyone for any reason other than self defense should be held guilty of a crime?


Cindy

I said ” hate crime”. I know that you know the difference so please don’t play with semantics. I’m way too aggravated about this incident and this crap is happening more often these day’s.


Yes, you’re correct about my error in banning the classes, I did mean that the La Raza social study classes should not be paid for with public funds. I know that AZ put a stop to allowing them as part of the school curriculum and we need to do it in every state.


Crusader

Hate crime? hardly. Your comments are bigoted and disgusting.


First, I think it’s inappropriate for any student to wave the flag of a foreign country in any public school in the USA **IF** the intent is to use it “as a symbol that Hispanic Americans (or anyone else) can overcome this country’s white (or ‘existing’) power structure.”


Second I think it’s also inappropriate for an ADULT to arm their kid and their friends with American flags to protest the previously mentioned inappropriate action. Are they getting off on their children acting out their own fantasies? Old Glory should not be used in such tasteless displays.


Third, school administration needs to act with courage and speed. A CYA call to the district is bad form. So is this publicity. Simply collect ALL the flags and then deal with the problem once tempers cool so that this sorta stuff is not repeated.


Cindy

How dare you call an American “bigoted” for having a problem with anyone who tries to start a fight with an American for waving a US Flag? I’m finished with you, if your even an American, your an embarrasment and probably a free loader.


Crusader

You’re digging yourself in deeper. Don’t think for a minute that your attempt to make wrap yourself in Old Glory makes your nasty comments any more palatable. Your concluding ad hominem shows just what sort of person you are. Finis.


hotdog

Whoa Cindy, have you lost your mind? You used to be rational and even, sometimes, friendly.

So what if some kids wanted to celebrate their heritage on ONE day? The white kids acted in retaliation and sparked the controversy. Too bad one of them had a wicked mom who couldn’t stand for the few Hispanic kids to have a little pride in the country their ancestors came from.

What if a few Danish kids waved their flag on Danish independence day (don’t give me any guff about Mexican independence day-doesn’t matter one twit if cinco de Mayo is or isn’t)? Would that piss you off too? Want to get the National Guard after them, deport the lot of them? (Ooops, they would be white, mustn’t do that).

Chill girl, don’t you have something decent to do?


Cindy

hotdog, I don’t have a problem with the kids waiving the Mexican flag on Cinco de Mayo. I have a problem with the Mexican kids having a problem that the American’s were waiving the US flag. I have zero tolerance for anyone that comes to this country and disrespects our flag, my father and my brother fought wars for that flag. I am the wrong person to mess with when it comes to the flag of the United States of America.


mkaney

They had a problem with the American kids waving the U.S. flag because they knew FULL WELL that they weren’t seeking equality or celebration, they were being antagonistic. They can talk in whatever “code” they want to, that’s just the bottom line here.


hotdog

Well, aren’t we special? So, its ok for relatives of veterans to disrespect citizens here because they don’t appreciate having their celebration interrupted by nationalistic americans? How do you know those despicable mexies ‘came to this country’? They just might be citizens- just like you (if you are-maybe you are a Danish terrorist).


Your outrage is ridiculous and childish. Sounds like bush’s ‘bring ’em on’; that act of idiotic bravado cost us trillions and over a 100 thousand American casualties so far-not to mention way more of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.


I happen to be a vet, a real life VN vet. On top of that, a volunteer! I served my country-not a piece of cloth. The flag often represents the country and what we stand for but that is just about meaningless now- so many crooks, thieves, killers and idiots have misused it so many times for so many illicit purposes that it has no meaning other than to give the weak minded something to get mad about. Ring a bell? Hello, anyone there?


Crusader

I love how you responded to the laughable:


“I am the wrong person to mess with when it comes to the flag of the United States of America.”


with


“Well, aren’t we special? So, its ok for relatives of veterans to disrespect citizens here because they don’t appreciate having their celebration interrupted by nationalistic Americans?” and “I served my country-not a piece of cloth.”


Sublime!


Cindy

This isn’t brain surgery hotdog.

An American should never have a US flag taken away from them on US soil because someone from another country is offended.

During times of protest, their have been American’s that desecrated our flag, but they never raised the flag of another country in the process unless they were Mexicans.

Try staying on topic, this is about American’s having their US flags taken away because they waived them in a class room where Mexican’s were waiving the Mexican flag. What were these kids doing with a Mexican flag at school to begin with?


mkaney

They were celebrating Cinco de Mayo. And regardless of how “fake” of a holiday it is, it is something that we celebrate here, nonetheless. Christmas is pretty damn fake too but no one seems to have a problem with that.


Typoqueen

When the US flag is used to demean, insult or insight hate then you are the one that diminishes what the flag stands for and that is exactly what you Cindy and the mother at the school are doing. There was no need for this mother to do that. These kids were waving their flags celebrating their heritage on a day that only comes once a year. They were kids, they probably didn’t even think that they might have been offending anyone. I wouldn’t be offended if my neighbor hung an Irish flag out on St. Patrick’s day, what’s the big deal. Wrapping yourself in the flag to justify bigotry and intolerance only diminishes what the flag stands for.


WiseGuy

Cinco De Mayo is not a holiday in Mexico. U.S. beer companies picked this historic date to promote as a “fiesta day” in order to sell beer. I’m not making this up.


I’ve been deep in Mexico on May 5, and there was no sign whatsoever that it was any kind of “special day”, not even at the bars.


Cinco de Mayo has been turned into a giant beer and salsa promotion campaign. It’s sick.


(By the way, Mother’s Day, IS a day of widespread celebration in Mexico. Labor Day also. But not “Cinco de Mayo.”


Crusader

At least no low-foreheaded inbreds gave their kids Confederate stars and bars battle flags to distribute amongst their friends.


mkaney

I was too quick to mark your comment down, wish I could take it back now that I get what you are trying to say.


Crusader

Walk along the surf at a place like Pismo Beach during the summer at look at the LOSERS flying the Confederate stars and bars battle flags from their vehicles. In a place like California that thankfully lacks much of the baggage that rendered that flag and a lot of the qualities that are associated with it. How sad. I bet 90%+ have no idea what the history of the stars and bars flag actually is…


mkaney

Peronally I don’t have a problem with the confederate flag. I realize that it is uncomfortable for many but it is important to remind people that when Americans wanted to excercise their inalienable rights and secede (for WHATEVER reason), they were killed in massive numbers (600,000 people died). There were other ways to go about freeing the slaves, if that had truly been Lincoln’s intention. I think that focusing on the racism and slavery issues of the confederacy really serves the purpose of the power brokers in this country. But, I realize this is not a popular view and I would also personally never fly the confederate flag because I try to be more tactful than that.


Crusader

The problem is two fold. First, the LOSERS I see flying them at Pismo almost certainly have no clue about the history of that flag — there is far more to it than the issue of slavery.


Second, it’s not part of California’s history. There is no redeeming value to them flying the stars and bars. All is does is underscore that they’re LOSERS and we hardly need that reminder…


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