American flag shirt 'gang related,' school district says

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School Says 'Gang Related" American Flag Shirt Violates Dress Code

OLIVEHURST, Calif. (KTXL) -- A 12-year-old honor student at Yuba Gardens Intermediate school received a dress code violation, but many are wondering if the school overreacted.

This back-to-school season, Lori Carpenter bought a simple, patriotic T-shirt from Kohl's for her son, Dustin Cole. She said she bought it because she liked the American flag design and the blue color.

However, last week when Dustin came home from school she noticed he was wearing the T-shirt inside out.

"I asked him why," Carpenter said. "He said he was 'dress coded' at school because the stars were gang related."

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American flag shirt 'gang related,' school district says
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His parents said the honor student has never been in trouble, nor is he part of any gang. But school official said this seemingly simple patriotic shirt blurred the line between freedom of speech and a safety risk.

"Our local gang task force, they identify colors, they identify designs, they identify all of the things that we should be aware of," Assistant Superintendent at Marysville Joint Unified School District, Ramiro Carreon said.

In this case, they said that the red star on the top right of the shirt is often associated with the Norteno gang.

"That design has been associated with gangs in the past, and we cannot just turn a blind eye to that," Carreon said.

School officials said Dustin immediately complied with the principal's request to turn his shirt inside out. But his parents are still wondering if they took this issue a little too far.

"I mean, they are trying to keep everybody safe. I understand, but it feels like it is a little too far. Especially when it is a patriotic shirt," Carpenter said.

Carpenter said she will need to be more careful when purchasing clothes for her sons from here on out.

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