Student in OR told to cover pro-border wall shirt sues school

Posted at 6:20 AM, May 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-23 03:46:11-04

HILLSBORO, OR (RNN) – A high school senior from Oregon claimed his First Amendment rights were violated when he was told to either cover up a T-shirt expressing support for President Donald's Trump's border wall or leave school.

Addison Barnes, 18, filed a lawsuit Friday against Liberty High School in Hillsboro, OR, its principal and the school district.

Earlier this year, the student wore a T-shirt promoting Trump’s border wall between the U.S. and Mexico to his "People and Politics" class, according to the lawsuit provided by The Oregonian.

The T-shirt featured a logo with a construction worker and the words "Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co." Under the logo, it said, "The wall just got 10 feet taller."

According to the lawsuit, the class was due to discuss the topic of immigration when Barnes wore the shirt.

During the class, Assistant Principal Amanda Ryan-Fear removed the student from the classroom and told him to cover it up. She claimed at least one other student and a teacher said the shirt offended them, the lawsuit says.

Barnes initially complied by putting on a jacket, according to KGW, and went back to class.

"And then a few minutes later, I decided, 'You know, this isn’t right,'" Barnes told KPTV. "I have my First Amendment, and it’s not right what they’re doing."

The student then took off the jacket, uncovering the shirt.

When Ryan-Fear saw the shirt was not covered, the lawsuit said she sent a security guard to remove Barnes from class. The student claimed he was threatened with suspension for "defiance."

“She gave me the option: either I cover the shirt up, or I get sent home,” Barnes told KPTV.

He chose to go home.

According to the lawsuit, his absence was initially counted as a suspension, but school officials later rescinded that decision.

"Through his shirt, Barnes sought to convey his views on a national debate about a serious political and societal issue. It was pure political speech, which, 'of course, is at the core of what the First Amendment is designed to protect,'" the lawsuit said.

Barnes and his lawyers said officials exhibited a double standard because they allowed a teacher to "prominently display" a sign promoting sanctuary cities in the front of the classroom.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon released a statement to KGW.

"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. This shirt is mean-spirited, but it isn't a ‘disturbance’ under First Amendment case law," read the statement in part.

Barnes said he hopes the lawsuit brings about a broader understanding of free speech at his school, KPTV reported. He is suing for damages, as well as the right to wear his shirt at school.

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