A senior at Liberty High School in Hillsboro, Oregon, went against the blue state’s popular politics and sued his school for suspending him after he wore a pro-Trump pro-border wall shirt. Addison Barnes, an 18-year-old senior at the time, won a $25,000 settlement and a written apology from the principal.
The offensive shirt reads: “Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co.” with the phrase “The Wall Just Got 10 Feet Taller.” On January 19, 2018 Barnes attended his first period class “People and Politics,” which, ironically, discussed immigration. Vice Principal Amanda Ryan-Fear interrupted the class to speak with Barnes, instructing him to either cover the shirt or leave – which would be treated as a 10-day suspension. She said at least one other student and a teacher were offended by the shirt.
At first, the student relented and put a jacket over the shirt. However, a few short minutes later, he changed his mind. “It seems particularly unfair to me that my speech is censored, when the school is open to competing political views,” Barnes wrote in a statement to the court. He left the school and took the suspension.
“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.”
He added that during his junior year, the school had a poster supporting sanctuary cities that stayed in prominent view the entire year. Barnes’ attorneys referred to the poster arguing that the school can’t forbid one side of the immigration debate while allowing the teachers to display a sign that reads “Sanctuary City, Welcome Home.”
School officials argued they acted responsibly because the 33% of the student population is Hispanic and the shirt could incite racial protests. They said the shirt would contribute to a “hostile learning environment” while making students feel insecure.
“There’s not enough to go on here to show that sort of legitimate concern justifying censorship of this core political speech,” U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman ruled.
The school, however, argued that there should be some consideration for the “unique population” of its students and that walkouts have already happened on the border wall issue.Addison Barnes
“So First Amendment protections vary from high school to high school?” the judge asked. “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.”
School officials said they decided to settle because the lawsuit would cause disruption and cost. Principal Greg Timmons apologized for Barnes’ suspension and wished him well in the future, but it wasn’t much of an apology letter:
“As an educational institution,” the statement said, “Hillsboro School District and each of our schools supports, encourages, and celebrates free speech and reasoned debate. We also have a responsibility to ensure that each of our students feels welcome and safe in our schools so they can effectively learn. This was an instance where we were challenged to do both simultaneously and the decision landed on the side of ensuring student safety. Moving forward, we will continue to use professional discretion to meet both objectives and will actively seek ways to turn sensitive situations into learning opportunities.”
Still, it’s another win on our side. Our youth are fighting back with much more poise and intelligence than the crybaby left. Democrats are slipping more and more and are losing their minds over it, unsure how to attack next in a way that won’t backfire on them. Chalk one up for another conservative student fighting back and winning, and encouraging other youth to do the same.