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San Diego Office of Education responds to John Gibson's charges that US flags are banned in Oceanside schools

Reported by Chrish - April 8, 2006

John Gibson has been perpetuating a falsehood on The Big Story this past week, saying that a school in Oceanside CA has banned all US flags, The accusation is misleading at best, and by his own admission has stirred a lot of (unnecessary) anger.

The brouhaha got its start on Tuesday April 4 with a story about two schools in Colorado who banned "patriotic" apparel, with a six-minute segment labeled "Middle school principal bans all patriotic clothing." SkyLine High School in Longmont and Shaw Heights Middle School in Adams County were cited.

On Wednesday April 5, Gibson's My Word segment and column contained this:

Two schools in Colorado and one in San Diego have now instituted bans on flags or clothing in the color of flags.

This is because the Mexican-American kids and the illegal Mexican kids carried Mexican flags, and the American kids responded by carrying American flags.

Then the American kids started wearing clothes in red, white and blue, and with flags on them. That caused the Mexican kids to feel put down, so arguments would start.

And that started the American kids thinking: Wait a minute, you're in America. This is our flag.

So debate went out the window. And the principals in these schools decided to head off the possibility of fights, they better just ban flags.

This against the backdrop of a high school principal in Houston punished for flying the Mexican flag on the school flagpole and another high school teacher suspended for printing up flyers urging kids to go march in an anti-immigration crackdown demonstration.

So Hispanic teachers are urging kids to get out there and demonstrate, and American administrators are telling kids "No American flags."

On The Big Story Thursday April 6, Gibson said to Senator Durbin (D-IL) "Senator, there's a few schools around the country that have been forced to ban flags, including the American flag, over conflicts back and forth, between one group waving Mexican flag, the other group waving American flags. Are these demonstrators making a mistake in these open displays of the Mexican flag over the American flag?"

Durbin asked "Which schools have banned the American flag?"

Gibson replied "There's one in particular in Oceanside CA, home of the US Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton."

Durbin shook his head and said "No, I never heard of that, and I don't know of a single school in America that can't display the American flag. I'd like to look into that story. That's pretty outrageous."

Gibson encouraged him to, saying "Well please do check it out. We've been talking about it for a couple of days and it's made a lot of people angry."

In the following segment Gibson said to Senator Hutchinson (R-TX) that "Senator Durbin hadn't heard about this incident we've been talking about, where the American flag has been banned in a few schools around the country."

Hutchinson had heard of it (apparently a loyal FOX-watcher) and said "...to say that you cannot put our flag on any school, in any school, in our country is absolutely wrong."

According to Jim Esterbrooks of the San Diego Office on Education, what's wrong is Gibson's reporting. Esterbrooks says that all schools in the Oceanside School District have an American flag flying outside, an American flag in every classroom, and the students say the Pledge of Allegiance every day. He is incensed at Gibson's portrayal of the school, Oceanside High, which is right next to Camp Pendleton and where many of the students have a parent serving in Iraq. The teens are allowed to wear flag tees provided they don't also carry an inflammatory or denigrating message, and flag pins, decals, et cetera are and always have been allowed.

What the school district had disallowed was for students to carry American or Mexican (or any other nationality) banner flags, because they had been brandished and used to taunt and incite heated emotion, becoming a safety concern (and the restriction ended today). For Gibson to generalize from that to "banned American flags" was "as inaccurate as can be".

For the sake of keeping his viewers' outrage misdirected away from the bubbling Republican scandals, Gibson has manufactured another faux "war" out of whole cloth, smearing an extremely patriotic and proud school district in the process. A clarification and apology are in order - don't hold your breath.

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