A Student Sues School District for Suspension
HILLSBORO, OREGON – May 22, 2018
An 18-year-old Liberty High School senior, Addison Barnes said he was asked to cover up his shirt or leave the school.
Barnes is suing his high school. He says it violated his First Amendment rights when it suspended him for wearing “Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co.” T-shirt.
The Hillsboro School District has adopted Standards of Student Conduct. It says that clothing decorated or marked with illustrations, words, or phrases that are disruptive or potentially disruptive, and/or that promote the superiority of one group over another is prohibited. When dress or grooming clearly disrupts learning or presents a health or safety hazard, the student will be required to change attire prior to returning to class. Such activity may result in serious disciplinary action.
According to a complaint filed May 18th, Barnes wore the shirt to class where a discussion of immigration issue was scheduled. He claimed he knew about discussion’s theme and knowingly wore his T-shirt.
The school official told the boy he has to either cover the shirt or leave the school, as at least one student and one teacher had been offended by the text. Barnes agreed to cover it, but later he changed his mind. “I decided, you know, this isn’t right,” he told the FOX 12 station. “I have my First Amendment, and it’s not right what they’re doing.”
A security guard from the classroom removed him. His absence was treated as a suspension. He was notified that he’d be disciplined if he wore the shirt again.
“The high school, ironically named Liberty High School, had violated his free speech rights,” Barnes’ attorney, Mike McLane, told KGW. McLane is the leader of the Republican minority in Oregon’s House of Representatives.
“The shirt did not promote or advocate illegal activity; it contained no violent or offensive imagery; nothing on it was obscene, vulgar, or profane,” the lawsuit reads.
“If somebody else disagrees with me politically, I think they should be able to express their viewpoints just as I should be able to express my viewpoints in school,” Barnes told FOX 12.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon Legal Director, Matt Dos Santos, said KGW in a statement that the high school “clearly crossed a line” by asking Barnes to remove the shirt.
“This shirt is mean-spirited, but it isn’t a ‘disturbance’ under First Amendment case-law,” his statement reads, calling the school’s decision to censor Barnes instead of inviting students to discuss the issue “disappointing.”