The sound of “God Bless America” echoed through the streets of Denair on Monday as hundreds of people walked eighth grader Cody Alicea to school while bringing a tidal wave of red, white and blue to the small Central Valley community.
“We are here to support all the Codys in the country,” said Lisa De Los Santos, a Denair resident who organized the parade that escorted Cody to school. “A child should not be asked to put their flag away to sweep away the bigger problem. Fly your flag and fly it high.”
The extreme dose of patriotism was a result of a campus supervisor’s request for Alicea to remove the American flag off of his bike last week because it was bringing to light potential “racial tension” and 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 it’s Veterans week and it’s a problem.”
The school district stands behind the decision the campus supervisor made to keep Alicea’s safety as their number one priority, but has allowed Alicea to fly his flag again.
“First and foremost, I am sorry to this town that this has happened,” said Denair Unified School District Superintendent Ed Parraz at the emergency DUSD Board of Trustees meeting held on Sunday, which was called to discuss a potential lawsuit from a civil rights group. “My apology not only goes to Denair, but this county, this state and the whole union.”
Even with the apology some feel that the school district should have handled the situation differently.
“We might lose the bigger issue here,” said Denair resident Keith Landmeier at the Sunday DUSD meeting. “Cody wasn’t our problem and isn’t the bigger issue. As an American, I don’t want to be afraid or my school district to be afraid of hiding my American flag on American soil.”
Some feel the district should have dealt with the students who were allegedly making the threats instead of asking Alicea to remove his flag for his safety.
“The issue at hand is the bullies threatening him because he wants to fly an American flag in America,” said Nancy Hinton, Modesto resident who also spoke at the Sunday meeting. “Why weren’t the bullies threatening him brought in the office and brought to justice?”
Despite community members pointing fingers at the alleged student threats, the attitude around the incident has changed from anger toward the district to extreme patriotism as they stood up for their American rights.
“We live in the United States of America,” said Cassie Olsen, Denair resident who also helped organize the parade on Monday. “We should feel free and safe to fly our flag anywhere we want, anytime we want.”
Patriots from around the region paraded behind Alicea on his way to school on Monday while he was being escorted by over 200 motorcycle riders from the Hells Angels Nomad, Merced American Legion Post 83, American Legion Patriot Guard and other riders.
The early morning event brought about tears, singing and flag waving.
“We are going to make this right for this town, the United States of America and the veterans of the past and the present,” Parraz said on Sunday.
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