This Trump-Supporting Student Just Won a $25K Settlement From his High School
You remember a few months back when a student in Hillsboro, Oregon was sent home from school for wearing a t-shirt that read “Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co.”? The student, 18-year-old high school senior Addison Barnes, was ultimately suspended for refusing to change the shirt or cover it with a jacket. Instead of groveling for forgiveness, though, he hired a lawyer and sued the school, the principal, and the school district for violating his right to free expression under the First Amendment.
Shortly after filing his lawsuit, Barnes was granted a temporary restraining order which blocked Hillsboro High School from enforcing their ban on the Trump shirt. The judge in the case said there was little to justify the school’s claim that allowing the shirt would cause an undue disruption in class and thus there was no overwhelming reason to allow the censorship to stay in place.
This week, Barnes got even better news: The school district agreed to a settlement. Principal Greg Timmons will write Barnes a letter of apology and the Hillsboro School District has agreed to pay Barnes $25,000 to pay for court costs and attorney’s 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.”
We’re of two minds when it comes to cases like these. The old fogey in us wants to tell these kids to stop challenging their school’s authority figures and simply abide by the rules. The realist in us knows that didn’t happen back in our day and it’s not going to happen now.
Did we say two minds? Make that three: The political observer is us knows that schools across this country (and Oregon is probably worse than most) have turned into liberal incubators where the “rules” are different depending on the ideas espoused. That’s why you have high schools where pro-choice feminist groups are just fine, but pro-life Christian groups are out of bounds. Schools where they teach Islam and call it “A Survey of World Religions,” but if you even mention Jesus, they’ll have you on a list by the end of the day. And when we remember that double-standard and how common it’s become, we have no problem believing that anti-Trump shirts were just fine at Hillsboro High School and that Mr. Barnes was singled out for his political beliefs.
Ban political shirts outright? That’s fine. But you can’t allow some and disallow others, assuming the content isn’t offensive or profane.
Looks like another school just got an expensive lesson in the First Amendment.