An Oregon high school senior is suing his school district after he says he was removed from class by a security officer and suspended for wearing a T-shirt supporting President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.
Addison Barnes, who attends Liberty High School outside of Portland, filed his lawsuit last week in federal district court, charging that Hillsboro School District violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
The shirt Barnes, 18, wore in January read, “Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co.,” and quoted the president saying, “The wall just got 10 feet taller.”
The student recounted on “Fox & Friends First” on Friday that he was wearing the shirt in his “People and Politics” class during a discussion on immigration, when the assistant principal approached him and instructed him to join her in the hallway.
HS student suspended for wearing a Trump shirt. Now, he’s suing his Oregon school district https://t.co/jWVsSrvRiM
— Wes Allen (@RepWesAllen) May 24, 2018
The assistant principal told Barnes that a teacher and some students were offended by his shirt, and he could either cover it up or go home.
“At first I covered it for a few minutes. Then I thought to myself this isn’t right, this goes against the First Amendment and my beliefs, so I took the jacket off,” the student told Fox.
The assistant principal saw he had removed his jacket and directed a security officer to escort him out of class. He was then suspended.
Barnes contended the school is not treating his political views equally with others, noting a teacher had a pro-sanctuary city poster hung in her classroom his entire junior year.
“As a conservative that might be considered offensive to me,” he said, “yet as a conservative when I wear a pro-Trump or pro-border wall shirt, I get suspended for that. So I don’t see that there’s much fairness in that.”
Fellow Liberty High senior Mark Guzman told KGW that their “school is very Latino-populated.”
“(The shirt) offended a lot of people. In the hall, kids would ask me if I’d seen it,” Guzman recalled.
Nevertheless, Barnes stated to Fox many fellow student have told him they support his right to wear the shirt, even if they do not agree with his views.
Barnes’ legal brief filed May 18 explains, “For nearly half a century, it has been the ‘unmistakable holding’ of the Supreme Court that students do not ‘shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.'”
“Through his shirt, Barnes sought to convey his views on a national debate about a serious political and societal issue,” the brief adds.
Barnes’ attorney, Mike McLane, also argued that his client’s shirt should not qualify as a violation of the district’s dress code, which prohibits “clothing decorated with illustrations, words, or phrases that are disruptive or potentially disruptive, and/or that promote superiority of one group over another.”
The liberal Oregon ACLU agrees that the student’s constitutional right to free speech was violated.
“The school clearly crossed the line when it required a student to remove a T-shirt that voiced support for Donald Trump’s border wall or face a suspension,” said Oregon ACLU legal director Mat dos Santos. “This shirt is mean spirited, but it isn’t a ‘disturbance’ under First Amendment case law.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.