Addison Barnes, 18, is suing his school, Liberty High School in Hillsboro, for violating his free speech rights under the First Amendment. Barnes had simply worn a t-shirt reading “Donald J. Trump Construction Co. . . .The wall just got 10 feet taller.” He was suspended for refusing to cover up the message. It is clearly a political statement that some would object to. However, high school students are encouraged to become involved in the political system and nothing on the shirt is profane or racist or vulgar. If this t-shirt is offensive and barred, wouldn’t any political or religious or social cause be equally subject to such action? The question answers itself and the implications are troubling.
Initially, he agreed to put something over the message but then decided to stand his ground and removed the covering. He was then sent home.
The school later rescinded the suspension, but still said that Barnes would be barred from wearing the t-shirt again to school. That would seem content-based discrimination on speech by the school. I fail to understand why students cannot wear t-shirts expressing their views in a free and open forum so long as the t-shirts do not include racist or sexist or hateful language. This t-shirt expresses a widely held political viewpoint. Rather than allow high school students to defend their own views as part of learning about being full citizens in our society, the school is teaching censorship and speech controls.
Here is the lawsuit: Barnes complaint