Liberty High School senior Addison Barnes knew his upcoming class session was going to focus on immigration, so he chose to wear a pro-President Trump shirt to school that day. He was then told by the assistant principal of the Portland, Oregon-area school to cover it up.
The shirt did not feature any vulgar language or graphic imagery. It simply read “Border Wall Construction Co.” with a logo and the Trump quote, “The wall just got 10 feet higher,” according to local NBC affiliate KGW8.
After two students and a teacher complained, Barnes was pulled out of class and told by the assistant principal that he needed to “cover the shirt or get sent home,” the teen said.
Barnes opted to wear a jacket over the shirt, but as he was sitting in class, he recalled, “I thought to myself, 'You know this isn't right; this is my First Amendment right to be able to wear this shirt.' So I took off the jacket and the assistant principal had seen that and sent for a security guard to escort me out of class.”
The student was ultimately suspended, although the school later took back the suspension with a warning to not wear the shirt again, the Sacramento Bee reported. Barnes decided to sue them in order to make a stand for the First Amendment.
He retained the services of attorney Mike McLane, who pointed out, “The high school, ironically named Liberty High School, had violated his free speech rights. 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.”
The lawsuit states that “The shirt did not promote or advocate illegal activity; it contained no violent or offensive imagery; nothing on it was obscene, vulgar, or profane. Through this shirt, Barnes sought to convey his views on a national debate about a serious political and societal issue.”
Even the ACLU of Oregon stood up for Barnes, although it was clear they didn’t like the shirt. They said that the shirt did not violate the school’s rule prohibiting clothing that causes a “disturbance.”
“This shirt is mean-spirited, but it isn’t a ‘disturbance’ under First Amendment case law,” said legal director Matt Dos Santos.