Michigan Students Sue After Being Forced to Remove “Let’s Go Brandon” Sweatshirts

Image from D.A. v. Tri County Area Schools Complaint

In Tinker v. Des Moines, the Supreme Court famously declared that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” That may be true but apparently they can shed their sweatshirts in Michigan. In a newly filed complaint, two middle school students are suing Tri County Area Schools after they were ordered to remove their sweatshirts featuring the anti-Biden slogan “Let’s Go, Brandon.” The lawsuit filed by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) makes a compelling case that the schools acted in an unconstitutional fashion in censoring the political message.

“Let’s Go Brandon!” has become a similarly unintended political battle cry not just against Biden but also against the bias of the media. It derives from an Oct. 2 interview with race-car driver Brandon Brown after he won his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race. During the interview, NBC reporter Kelli Stavast’s questions were drowned out by loud-and-clear chants of “F*** Joe Biden.” Stavast quickly and inexplicably declared, “You can hear the chants from the crowd, ‘Let’s go, Brandon!’”

“Let’s Go Brandon!” instantly became a type of “Yankee Doodling” of the political and media establishment.

In this case, an assistant principal (Andrew Buikema) and a teacher (Wendy Bradford) “ordered the boys to remove the sweatshirts” for allegedly breaking the school dress code. However, other students were allowed to don political apparel with other political causes including “gay-pride-themed hoodies.”

The district dress code states the following:

“Students and parents have the right to determine a student’s dress, except when the school administration determines a student’s dress is in conflict with state policy, is a danger to the students’ health and safety, is obscene, is disruptive to the teaching and/or learning environment by calling undue attention to oneself. The dress code may be enforced by any staff member.”

The district reserves the right to bar any clothing “with messages or illustrations that are lewd, indecent, vulgar, or profane, or that advertise any product or service not permitted by law to minors.”

The funny thing about this action is that the slogan is not profane. To the contrary, it substitutes non-profane words for profane words. Nevertheless, “D.A.” was stopped in the hall by Buikema and told that his “Let’s Go Brandon” sweatshirt was equivalent to “the fword.”

That seems a strikingly biased and selective enforcement of the policy. Before students appear in “Let’s Go Buikema” sweatshirts, the school should reconsider its stance on free speech.

As the Supreme Court stated in Iancu v. Brunetti (2019), “viewpoint discrimination is an egregious form of content discrimination and is presumptively unconstitutional.”

In the appendix of the complaint, FIRE has included a letter from counsel for the district, Kara Rozin, who insists that the school may make such clearly selective judgments on censorship. I believe that she is dead wrong on the First Amendment in this case. Frankly, I am surprised that the school district has elected to litigate this matter rather than seek a settlement. While the district may find lower court judges who would support the district, it should lose this case as a denial of protected speech.

What is so troubling is the message being taught here by the district. It is one of arbitrary enforcement and speech intolerance. It is precisely why we are seeing a generation of speech phobic students entering higher education. They have been taught since elementary school that speech is harmful and they do not have to tolerate the opposing views of others. My guess is that it is the teachers, not the students, who are most offended by anti-Biden sentiments.

This is an important free speech case for that reason and FIRE is to be commended for taking up the cause for these middle school students. This was once the work of the ACLU, which has largely abandoned its signature commitment to free speech. FIRE is now filling that void and this is a great case to reinforce free speech rights in our schools.

176 thoughts on “Michigan Students Sue After Being Forced to Remove “Let’s Go Brandon” Sweatshirts”

  1. What happened to the Morgan Hill flag t-shirt case? I watched an hour-long celebration of the Iowa case on C-Span, complete with original plaintiff and gratuitous commentary from law school prof about the “Nazis march in Skokie case”. In Morgan Hill an adminstrator suspended 5 students for wearing United States Flag t-shirts. Rationale? THEY were threatened with violence. No help from the ACLU. Nothing from national media either.

  2. This is exactly the sort of thing that needs to be challenged. The left need the same level of blow-back as they continually dole out to the conservative folks!

  3. “Let’s Go Brandon” is not vile nor does it use vulgarity.
    The only vulgarity here is literally in your heads.

    1. ‘Lets go Brandon’

      There is a demented old fart
      who plays the presidential part
      a parody: “Only in America”
      the world watch in ridic hysteria
      how he makes gaffe and failure an art.

      He loves to sniff little girls hair
      enticing them into his lair
      licking his ice-cream from a cone
      she only gets to chew bone
      an ice-cream-cum-bone gobbling snare.

      He displays his incestuous power
      by taking his daughter to shower
      she cringes and bleat
      at the sight of his reed
      and questions his ‘right’ to deflower

      He’s put Brandon Falls on the map
      reciting his most heinous rap:
      “Our patience is now wearing thin,
      get the jab or get thrown in the bin,
      you know, the thing” – the slammer trap.

      He disastrously flees from Afghanistan
      Fondling the crotch of the Taliban
      Gives the cream of Western weaponry
      to the worst of the worst of humanity
      and gloats in his devious plan!

      He calls MAGA heroes “extremists”
      would love to treat them as terrorists
      While he prays at the altar of Baal
      (hear his minions chant and wail) –
      codifying the plight of abortionists.

      Wearing his trousers back to front (saw photo’s on this one that might have been altered)
      makes for easy pump and dump
      helps to change his plug-in-diaper
      for “Doctor” Jill his backside wiper
      all the while the economy slump.

      Seek second term White House resident
      knows nothing ’bout being a President
      his mind is blown to pedo land
      reduced to only gaffe and rant
      promoting a nuclear accident.

      The question remains now by and large:
      is it incompetence or sabotage?
      The latter seems the logical one
      the first is the cover – there, it is done!
      And America is the sinking barge . . .

      Video’s shows him wearing a mask
      “A latex one?” – you’ll do good to ask:
      What’s the occasion, the rhyme and the reason?
      Snuffed out at Gitmo on counts of high treason
      shovelling brimstone is now his new task.

      Oh Americans, why is it so hard?
      You use to be so very smart!
      All it takes for evil to fly
      is for you to idly sit by –
      not driving a stake through it’s heart!

  4. The fact that Americans have to use vile language in order to describe vile politicians speaks volumes about the American people themselves. The suppression of free speech is part and parcel to the whole issue. There are better ways to verbally defend our nation from evil politicians, traitors and treason in high office than resorting to the language heard at the local bar.

    1. Vileness begets vileness. There are also better ways to “Build Back Better”, especially when the one selected entails destroying the very things to be “built back”. See where this is going. Vernacular is subjective. The impact it has on the individual is “subjective. Those that were taught that actions are more important than words, and that words are NOT violence, are more resilient and generally more able to function in the face of adversity.

    2. What is your complaint? What speech was vile that was banned in this article?
      “Let’s go Brandon” is precisely the un-vile version of what most Americans wish to say out loud at this point.

    3. “IF you want it to stick, give it to ’em LOUD and DIRTY!”
      General George S Patton

  5. The “I’m with Her” Hillary logo was equivalent to the “C” Word, why weren’t they banned?

    1. In MI they have a law 9n the books concerning the “F” word. They have sued a cancer once who was on a lake and using the word and won the case. However this particular word is Not being used by another in its place. So they will win this case but on the other side ofvthe spectrum.

  6. The totalitarian socialists took over the schools long ago, and they’ve only become more authoritarian as the years went by.

    1. Call them what they are: Blood thirsty Bolshevik “communist” Luciferians; before complying look at what this cult did in Russia!

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