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Student will receive $25,000 from district and formal apology after it banned his Trump T-shirt

Jul 25, 2018 11:32 am
Student will receive $25,000 from district and formal apology after it banned his Trump T-shirt

An Oregon high school student sued the school district after officials banned his pro-Trump T-shirt from school. The student will receive $25,000 to pay his attorney fees and a formal apology. (Image source: KGW-TV video screenshot)

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A Hillsboro, Oregon, student who was suspended for wearing a pro-Trump “Border Wall Construction Co.” T-shirt will receive $25,000 from the school district as well as a formal apology.

What’s the background?

Officials at Liberty High School suspended senior Addison Barnes for wearing the shirt to school in January because it “offended” people at the school.

Barnes’ T-shirt featured a logo that read “Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co.” and text graphics that read, “The wall just got 10 feet taller.”

According to Barnes, a teacher told him to cover up the T-shirt, so Barnes acquiesced and put on a jacket.

As the day went on, Barnes felt that covering up the shirt was permitting the administration to stifle his right to free speech.

Barnes took off the jacket, and once again was confronted by officials, who told him to cover up or face suspension. Barnes took the suspension and left the school.

“The T-shirt was just a representation of my political beliefs,” Barnes told KGW-TV in May.

Barnes also told the station that he had a teacher who hung a “pro-sanctuary city poster” in her classroom for the whole year.

“Yet as I wear a pro-border wall shirt I get silenced and suspended for wearing that,” he said.

What about the lawsuit?

As a result of the pushback over the T-shirt, Barnes decided to file a federal First Amendment lawsuit for nominal damages in May.

In response to Barnes’ lawsuit, a judge ruled that Barnes would be permitted to wear the T-shirt to school for the remainder of the year.

The Oregonian reported that U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman determined that the school “could not justify its censorship” and said that the judge “balanced constitutionally protected speech with the orderly running of a school.”

“There’s not enough to go on here to show that sort of legitimate concern justifying censorship of this core political speech,” Mosman ruled, according to the outlet.

“The T-shirt is core protected speech, and walking down the streets of Hillsboro, no state official — petty or grand — would be able to do much about that T-shirt legitimately under the Constitution,” Mosman added.

Barnes graduated from high school on June 7.

What’s happening now?

On Tuesday, The Oregonian published a report revealing that a judge’s ruling required the school district to pay Barnes’ $25,000 in attorney fees.

The ruling also required the school’s principal to formally apologize to Barnes.

According to the outlet, Barnes’ lawyers announced the settlement.

“I brought this case to stand up for myself and other students who might be afraid to express their right-of-center views,” Barnes said in a statement. “Everyone knows that if a student wears an anti-Trump shirt to school, the teachers won’t think twice about it. But when I wore a pro-Trump shirt, I got suspended. That’s not right.”

Attorney Brad Benbrook, one of the lawyers representing Barnes, said that squashing free speech is wrong.

“We brought the case to police the thought police,” Benbrook said, according to The Oregonian.

According to the outlet, the principal’s letter was short and to the point, and contained an apology for suspending Barnes over the T-shirt.

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