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Denair student can fly American flag once again

Denair student can fly American flag once again

Cody Alicea's family sits down to discuss the first amendment rights that they say were violated Monday when a school official asked Alicea to remove the American flag off of his bike.


POSTED November 12, 2010 10:44 p.m.

Two months ago when 13-year-old Cody Alicea decided to unfurl an American flag and let it flutter in the wind behind his bike, he had no idea he would unleash a touchstone of conversation that would have tongues wagging across the nation. He just thought he was getting into the spirit for an upcoming school trip to Washington, D.C.

Alicea’s display of American pride was cut short when he was asked to remove the American flag from his bike on Monday by a Denair Middle School campus supervisor because it might be creating “racial tension” and there were concerns for his safety.

“A school employee said some students have been complaining about my flag and I needed to take it down,” Alicea said. “So I took it down. I was kind of mad and upset because I have been flying it for two months and all of a sudden its Veterans week and it’s a problem.”

The Denair Unified School District backed up the campus supervisor’s decision, in part because they had previously made other students stop displaying the flag of Mexico on Cinco de Mayo.

However, after an outcry was raised locally and from afar, the district reversed that call on Friday, once again allowing Alicea to fly Old Glory.

The family said they have not heard about the district’s decision to change course from any school officials, but rather through word of mouth.

“It was the newsmen who told me they lifted the ban,” Alicea said.

The ban of the American flag has spurred up national coverage, raised questions about first amendment rights and brought forth conversations about racial sensitivity. The family has been contacted with words of encouragement by troops in Afghanistan, the president of Turkey, Rep. elect Jeff Denham, and community members, and has been deluged by news and radio stations, newspapers and magazines from all over the country.

“I don’t mind it, but when they have cameras in your face, it’s kinda hard to sit down for five minutes and breathe,” a tired Alicea said.

Calls to the Denair Unified School District were not returned by press time, but DUSD Superintendent Ed Parraz stated in a live broadcast on Fox40 News on Friday that the decision to order Alicea to remove the flag from his bike “was based on some information that she (the campus supervisor) heard that the students were complaining about some racial tensions and basically some concerns about safety.”

Alicea did not hear any comments made by the students who allegedly complained and he never felt like his personal safety was at stake, he said.

“I never have felt threatened or scared while flying the flag,” Alicea said.

According to Fox40 News, Parraz said the safety concerns sprouted from issues that started from Cinco de Mayo incidents this year.

“That’s when it all kind of started, and I think it carried through so that when Cody started doing his flag everybody said ‘well, why isn’t he getting in trouble?’” Parraz said.

Parraz told KCRA 3 News “our Hispanic, you know, kids will, you know, bring their Mexican flags and they’ll display it, and then of course the kids would do the American flag situation, and it does cause kind of a racial tension which we don’t really want. We want them to appreciate the cultures.”

If there was a safety concern, Kisner said that the school or district should have contacted his family.

“We didn’t hear a word from the school,” he said. “They should have approached us if there was indeed a valid threat. They also should have approached the families of the children making the threats.”

Alicea does recall students at Denair High School yelling to him while he rode to school with his American flag in tow, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying because it was in Spanish, he said.

While this may be the first American flag flap for Alicea, it isn’t for his step father and older step brother, who attends Denair High School.

On Cinco de Mayo this year, the older brother was asked to remove his American flag from his vehicle and he refused, said Robert Kisner, Alicea’s step-father. Kisner was asked to come to the school to ask his son to remove the flag, of which he did. All flags were asked to be removed, not just the American flag.

“They made everyone take down their flag and there was no favoritism,” Kisner said. “But it wasn’t the right thing to make anyone take their flags down.”

From that moment on, Kisner knew asking his older son to remove his flag wasn’t the right thing to do. Alicea’s incident at school was the last straw for Kisner and he said he was glad he had the opportunity to make up for his mistake.

“This is all about Cody,” he said. “I stuck up for him. I was pissed off because we have people in other countries dying for what we have today and for them to take his rights away and give them to someone else, you know?”

Alicea just wants to fly his flag again and plans to keep his American spirit going.

“He is going to fly his flag any day he wants to and if they have a problem, they can see us in court,” Kisner said.

Community members will parade with Alicea to school on Monday, sporting their red, white and blue. They will start at 7:15 a.m. at the Denair Market at 4330 Main St.

The Denair Unified School District board of trustees will hold an emergency board meeting at 2 p.m. Sunday to discuss the turmoil kicked up over the flags. The meeting will be at the DUSD leadership/board room located at 3460 Lester Road in Denair.

Alicea was donning the flag in part to keep him motivated for a fund raising goal of $2,800 to pay for an upcoming school trip to the nation’s capital.

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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