Lawsuit Filed Against Oregon High School Which Barred Student from Wearing Pro-Trump T-Shirt

 

Addison Barnes, a student at Liberty High School (LHS) in Oregon, has filed suit in federal court alleging a LHS administrator told him to go home or cover up a T-shirt that promoted President Donald Trump's demand for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and that this action violated his First Amendment free speech rights. The suit is seeking an injunction prohibiting HSD from enforcing school dress codes "in a manner inconsistent with" the First Amendment and an order allowing him to wear the banned shirt to LHS. The shirt's logo says: "Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co." Under the logo it says, "The wall just got 10 feet taller."

The suit states Barnes wore the shirt sometime this school year to his first period "People and Politics" class, where immigration was going to be the topic of discussion. Assistant principal Amanda Ryan Fear took Barnes out of the class and told him to cover the shirt because at least one other student and a teacher said they were offended by it. Barnes covered the shirt and returned to class, but then decided to uncover it minutes later. Fear sent a security guard to escort the teen from class to her office. 

The suit alleges Fear threatened Barnes with suspension for "defiance" and reiterated that he couldn't wear the shirt because it offended students. Barnes was told to cover up the shirt for the rest of the day or go home. He chose to go home, the lawsuit said. "This was unconstitutional," the lawsuit said. "The First Amendment protects students' right to speak on political or societal issues -- including the right to express what school officials may consider unpopular or controversial opinions, or viewpoints that might make other students uncomfortable."

Barnes' decision to leave the school was initially noted as a suspension, but that was changed after Barnes and his father met with Ryan Fear and Principal Greg Timmons a few days later. Barnes was told not to wear the shirt to school again or he could be subject to discipline, including suspension. The shirt didn't considerably disrupt or interfere with work at the school or the rights of other students, the lawsuit said.  According to the court filings, Barnes was trying to "comment on a national debate about a serious political and societal issue," through his attire. 

Source – COSA Legal Tips

Scott Swier
Founding Member, Attorney At Law