Families of Live Oak students sue school district over Cinco de Mayo incident

Live Oak High School students from left, Daniel Galli, Austin

The parents of three of the four boys who were sent home from
Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill on Cinco de Mayo filed a
lawsuit today against the Morgan Hill Unified School District,
Principal Nick Boden and Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez for
violating their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The parents of three of the four boys who were sent home from Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill on Cinco de Mayo filed a lawsuit today against the Morgan Hill Unified School District, Principal Nick Boden and Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez for violating their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

“The families are hoping to have their Constitutional rights vindicated,” their attorney William J. Becker Jr. said Wednesday by phone.

The lawsuit, Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School District, “seeks nominal damages” Becker said, which is symbolic. The plaintiffs are not seeking monetary damages or an apology. It’s whether or not Live Oak or any other school in the United States recognizes their duty to not infringe on students’ First Amendment rights, Becker said.

John and Dianna Dariano, parents of Matt Dariano, Kurt and Julie Ann Fagerstrom, parents of Dominic Maciel, and Kendall and Joy Jones on behalf of Daniel Galli were named as the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They are represented by the Becker Law Firm in Los Angeles and the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. Becker and the Thomas More Law Center are also litigating a similar case of discrimination on behalf of a Merced sixth-grade girl who was ordered by school officials to remover her pro-life T-shirt.

Superintendent Wes Smith is out of town and would not comment directly on the lawsuit. The school district did say it has not officially received notification of the lawsuit.

The four students were told by Boden and Rodriguez they could wear their American flag T-shirts on any other day other than Cinco de Mayo. Live Oak maintains it was attempting to quell any violence among Hispanic students and on May 5, Rodriguez called the boys’ dress “incendiary.”

Other students that day wore red, white and green in favor of their pride for the Mexican holiday, which marks the Mexican army’s victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

The incident pushed Live Oak and Morgan Hill into the national media spotlight. On May 6, about 200 mostly Hispanic teens marched through Morgan Hill as a sign of protest; on May 7, the school district issued an apology and Superintendent Wes Smith said he did not agree with the decision made; on May 8, more than 100 Tea Party members rallied in downtown to support the four students who also attended; and on May 11, several hundred locals and many media outlets covered the school board meeting that addressed the May 5 event.

The plaintiffs also seek compensation for their attorney’s fees and expenses and the cost of litigation from MHUSD.

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