A Hillsboro, Ore., high school senior who was suspended for wearing a pro-Trump, pro-border wall T-shirt to school has won a $25,000 settlement from his school.
Addison Barnes originally wore the shirt, which read “Donald J Trump Border Wall Construction Co: ‘The Wall Just Got 10 Feet Taller’” to his People and Politics class at Liberty High School, knowing that they’d be discussing immigration that day, KGW8 reports.
“The T-shirt was just a representation of my political beliefs,” Barnes said back in May when the incident originally caught headlines.
Others in the school saw the shirt, took offense, and by the time murmurs about the shirt reached an assistant principal, she pulled him aside, giving him the option to cover the shirt with a jacket or get sent home.
Barnes initially covered his shirt before changing his mind.
“I thought to myself, ‘You know this isn’t right, this is my First Amendment right to be able to wear this shirt,’ ” Barnes said. “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 school considered his removal a “suspension.”
And then Barnes filed a lawsuit against the school for violating his First Amendment rights.
On Tuesday, Barnes won his victory, reaching a settlement with a school district. Among the conditions, the Oregon Live reports: Principal Greg Timmons would issue a letter of apology, and the district will shell out $25,000 for Barnes’ attorney fees.
“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.’’
The school district noted that Timmons’ apology was short, apologizing for Barnes initial suspension and wishing him well.
Added the district:
As an educational institution, 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.
School officials, though they settled, defended their stance, saying that the shirt would contribute to a “hostile learning environment.” Some 33 percent of the school’s students are Latinx.
However, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Moseman didn’t seem to think so, claiming that the district could not justify the censorship, noting that while entitled to be concerned about the response of other students, the court record offered little support that the shirt could “substantially disrupt” the school.