Students face expulsion for refusing to remove military flags from balcony

Two San Diego State University students are facing possible expulsion for refusing to remove the American flag as well as other military flags hanging on their balcony.

According to the students, their First Amendment rights should allow them to hang the flags, while the school argues that the flags pose a safety risk.

Cameron Box, an active duty Coast Guard member, and Connor Fenwick, an aspiring U.S. Army officer, told ABC 10 News that there is no better way to express their patriotism than hanging these flags.

“We’re just being proud of what we’re affiliated with,” said Box.

The roommates have an American flag, a U.S. Army flag, and a U.S. Coast Guard flag hanging on the balcony of their SDSU on-campus housing.

“They’re trying to say it’s a fire hazard, but it just doesn’t make much sense,” Box said.

According to the SDSU living agreement, “No items, except patio furniture designed for outdoor use, may be placed on balconies and patios. Hangings, partitions, or curtains of any type may not be used on balconies or patios.”

A letter from the SDSU administration to the students stated that they are in violation of the school’s policy and may face expulsion.

Both Fenwick and Box believe that the policy is open to interpretation and have decided to stand their ground.

“Why can’t we have our First Amendment rights?” Fenwick asked.

While the students are planning to fight for their First Amendment rights, their odds of winning the case are not very good.

“I think the university is within its rights to prohibit hanging anything from a balcony,” said David Loy, legal director for the ACLU in San Diego.

The school has asked that the students take down the flags immediately. According to SDSU officials, the flags pose a safety concern because it can potentially block visibility.

School officials say the students are free to appeal the decision. However, if they lose the appeal, they could be expelled.

Box and Fenwick said if things go that far, they will take the flag down rather than appeal the decision because they don’t want to lose their scholarships.

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