A 12-year-old student in California was forced to turn his American flag t-shirt inside-out last week after administrators claimed it was “gang related.”
Dustin Cole, an honors student at Yuba Gardens Intermediate school, says he was approached by school staff who argued that the t-shirt, which features items from both the American and California flag, violated the district’s dress code.
Cole’s mother, Lori Carpenter, says she first became aware of the issue after Cole came home with his shirt on inside-out.
“I asked him why,” Carpenter told Fox40. “He said he was ‘dress coded’ at school because the stars were gang related.”
According to Marysville Joint Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Ramiro Carreon, the shirt was flagged for containing colors and designs known to the local gang task force.
“Our local gang task force, they identify colors, they identify designs, they identify all of the things that we should be aware of,” Carreon said.
Speaking with the Appeal-Democrat, Ben Martin, a detective with the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department gang unit, stated that the t-shirt, originally purchased at Kohl’s contained multiple symbols associated with the state’s Norteno gang.
“The red star on the Bear Flag, which represents the Lone Star flag flown above Monterey in 1836 during Juan Alvarado’s revolt against the Mexican government, is also used by the Norteño criminal street gang,” Martin said. “Red is the gang’s color, the five points of the star represent ‘1+4’ and the 14th letter of the alphabet is ‘N.'”
“Inside the red star on Cole’s shirt, the number 31 is visible. The 31 on the shirt represents that California is the 31st state, but in gang iconography, 31 is the inverse of 13, which is used by the Sureño gang.”
As noted by education watchdog EAG News, Carpenter took to Facebook following the incident to vent her frustration over the school’s policy.
“He’s an honor roll student, he’s in California Junior Scholastic Federation and he gets As,” Carpenter wrote. “He’s a star student but he can’t wear a star.”
“I understand that they have a job to keep everybody safe,” Carpenter said. “But I think that it’s going way too far.”