Student Wins $25,000 After Suspension for Wearing Trump “Border Wall Construction” T-Shirt
“I brought this case to stand up for myself and other students who might be afraid to express their right-of-center views,” Addison 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.”
Barnes is a student at the ironically named Liberty High School in Hillsboro, Oregon, where he was kicked out of class and suspended for wearing a pro Trump shirt to class that read “Border Wall Construction Co. The Wall Just Got 10 Feet Taller.”
He filed a lawsuit in federal court, citing a violation of his 1st Amendment rights. One week after the suit was filed, the federal judge granted a temporary order stating that Barnes would be able to wear the shirt in school.
Today, the school district reached a settlement with Barnes in the amount of $25,000. Barnes will also receive a hand written apology letter from principal Greg Timmons.
Barnes’ lawyers said the message on the shirt wasn’t the point of the case. High school students have the right to express their political views, they said.
“We brought the case to police the thought police,” attorney Brad Benbrook said.
Hillsboro school district officials said Tuesday they were preparing a statement about the settlement and would release it later in the afternoon.
School officials had defended their actions in court, saying the shirt would contribute to a “hostile learning environment” and would make students feel insecure in school, noting that about 33 percent of the high school’s students are of Hispanic descent. They also said the school has been the site of recent student walkouts and sit-ins to protest Trump’s immigration policies.
The district described increased racial tensions arising from racially charged language around immigration, school officials said.
But U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman found the school district couldn’t justify its censorship. The judge said he balanced constitutionally protected speech with the orderly running of a school.
The school district is entitled to be concerned about the response of other students to the T-shirt, the judge said. But the “thin” court record offered little support for the district’s argument that the shirt could “substantially disrupt” the school, he said.
Barnes appeared on the Lars Larson show to give his own take on the matter: