National News

Student asked to cover Trump shirt sues school district

Posted May 22, 2018 10:48 a.m. EDT

— A high school student in Hillsboro is suing the school district after he says his First Amendment rights were violated.

FOX 12 spoke with 18-year-old Liberty High School senior, Addison Barnes, who says he was asked to cover up a President Donald Trump shirt he was wearing or, instead, leave 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," he said.

Barnes says he knew what he was doing when he wore a controversial shirt to his "People and Politics" class, in which the topic that day was immigration.

He was sent home that day, on Jan. 19, when he refused to cover it up, and tells FOX 12 he's sticking up for his First Amendment rights.

The shirt included the words "Donald J Trump Border Wall Construction Co." and a quote from the president: "The wall just got 10 feet taller."

Barnes says the assistant principal pulled him out of class because his shirt offended students and a teacher.

"She gave me the option; either I cover the shirt up or I get sent home," he said.

Barnes says he covered it up at first.

"And then a few minutes later I decided, you know this isn't right," he said. "I have my First Amendment and it's not right what they're doing."

Barnes says he left school instead - and the school deemed his absence a half-day suspension, according to court documents, which they later rescinded.

According to the lawsuit, Barnes believes the shirt is protected under the First Amendment, his right to free speech.

In Liberty High School's Parent-Student Handbook, it makes no mention of banned political clothing.

However, in Hillsboro School District's Standards of Student Conduct it outlines a more defined set of guidelines: "Clothing decorated or marked with illustrations, words, or phrases that are disruptive or potentially disruptive, and/or that promote superiority of one group over another is not permitted."

Barnes says he was aware of the district dress code.

"It does kind of promote supremacy, but it's not flat out a Ku Klux Klan shirt or anything. This is just words on a shirt," said Liberty High School student Milica Kincaid.

The documents show Barnes' shirt did not substantially disrupt the classroom.

The lawsuit was filed in Oregon's federal court Friday and claims Liberty is suppressing political free speech.

Barnes says he hopes this lawsuit brings about a broader understanding of free speech at his school. He is suing for damages, as well as the right to wear his shirt at school.

FOX 12 reached out to the Hillsboro School District and the communications officer, Beth Graser, said they are still reviewing the lawsuit and are currently declining to comment.