An Oregon high school student is suing his school, saying it violated his First Amendment rights when it suspended him for wearing a Trump T-shirt.
The student, 18-year-old Addison Barnes, told FOX 12 that he was asked to cover up a T-shirt he was wearing that said “Donald J. Trump Construction Co.” on it, or leave school. The shirt also included a Trump quote: “The wall just got 10 feet taller.”
According to KGW, Barnes wore the shirt to his People and Politics class at Liberty High School in Hillsboro in January, and he told the TV outlet he knew they’d be discussing immigration in class that day.
The school official who pulled Barnes out of class to ask him to cover the shirt also told him at least one student and one teacher had been offended by the shirt, The Associated Press reported.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
At first, Barnes covered the shirt, FOX 12 reported, but then he changed his mind.
“I decided, you know this isn’t right,” he told the TV station. “I have my First Amendment, and it’s not right what they’re doing.”
He removed the covering, so officials sent a security guard to the classroom to remove Barnes, who was told to cover his shirt or go home for the rest of the day, according to The Associated Press.
Barnes went home and school officials treated his absence as a suspension, the Hillsboro Tribune reported.
The school later rescinded the suspension, but told Barnes he’d be disciplined if he wore the shirt again.
“The high school, ironically named Liberty High School, had violated his free speech rights,” Barnes’ attorney, Mike McLane, told KGW. The Associated Press reports that McLane is also the leader of the Republican minority in Oregon’s House of Representatives.
The lawsuit, which was filed Friday in Oregon District Court, alleges that asking Barnes to cover his shirt and then sending him home was unconstitutional.
“The shirt did not promote or advocate illegal activity; it contained no violent or offensive imagery; nothing on it was obscene, vulgar, or profane,” the lawsuit reads.
According to the lawsuit, Barnes is suing for nominal damages as well as the right to wear his shirt to school.
“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,” Barnes told FOX 12.
The Liberty High School handbook includes a rule that “only appropriate sayings or pictures are acceptable” on students’ clothing, but does not get more specific, The Associated Press reported.
ACLU of Oregon Legal Director, Matt Dos Santos, told KGW in a statement that the high school “clearly crossed a line” by asking Barnes to remove the shirt.
“This shirt is mean-spirited, but it isn’t a ‘disturbance’ under First Amendment case law,” his statement reads, calling the school’s decision to censor Barnes instead of inviting students to discuss the issue “disappointing.”