An Oregon teen has filed a lawsuit against his high school after he was suspended for wearing a “Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co.” shirt to class.
Addison Barnes maintains he engaged in a “respectful, silent and peaceful” expression of his political views in the lawsuit against Liberty High School, its principal and the Hillsboro School District.
Also included on the shirt was the phrase “the wall just got 10 feet taller,” a comment that then-candidate Trump made in a presidential primary debate in February 2016. President Trump’s proposed border wall has been a hot topic ever since he first brought up the idea during his successful run for the White House.
“This isn’t about where you are on the border wall,” Mike McLane, one of the teen’s lawyers, told the Daily News on Wednesday. “It’s about where you are on free speech.”
Barnes, a senior, wore the shirt to his “People and Politics” class earlier this semester for a discussion about immigration, according to the lawsuit.
“This school is very Latino-populated,” student Mark Guzman told KGW8. “(The shirt) offended a lot of people. In the hall, kids would ask me if I’d seen it.”
Barnes was removed from the classroom, according to the lawsuit, and told to cover the shirt because at least one other student and a teacher were offended. Barnes covered the shirt and returned to the classroom, but later changed his mind and displayed the shirt.
“I thought to myself, ‘You know this isn’t right, this is my First Amendment right to be able to wear this shirt,'” Barnes told KGW8. “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.”
Barnes was threatened with a suspension for “defiance.” He was told to either cover his shirt or go home for the rest of the day. He went home, and his absence was treated as a suspension.
“The only disruption in the classroom is Addison Barnes being removed by a security guard,” said McLane, who also serves as a Republican member of the state House of Representatives.
The lawsuit, filed last week, argues that the First Amendment protects students’ rights to speak on topical issues, even if they make other students “uncomfortable.”
“Through his shirt, Barnes sought to convey his views on a national debate about a serious political and societal issue,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit notes that the school, located in Hillsboro, Ore., allows a teacher to display a sign in front of a classroom stating, “Sanctuary City, Welcome Home.”
“I had a teacher who had a pro-sanctuary city poster in her room which was up all year,” Barnes told KGW8, “yet as I wear a pro-border wall shirt I get silenced and suspended for wearing that.”