In January, Liberty High School in Hillsboro, Oregon, suspended student Addison Barnes for wearing a T-shirt that read: “Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co.” According to The Oregonian, Barnes sued, and has won a settlement:
On Tuesday, Barnes’ lawyers announced they reached a settlement with the district: Principal Greg Timmons will issue a letter of apology and the district will pay $25,000 for Barnes’ attorney fees.
The school had cited racial tensions surrounding the immigration debate in the school, which is reportedly 33 percent Hispanic, as justification for suspending Barnes. They argued that the T-shirt would cause disruption, a common argument used when schools want to justify censorship.
Showing profound hypocrisy, Liberty High School had allowed students to participate in the anti-gun national walkout, March For Our Lives, without disciplinary action.
Students walking out of class to make a political statement is far more of a disruption to classroom activities than a guy wearing a t-shirt. Further, the walkout carried the stink of administration support, making it clear that the administration was trying to pick winners and losers in political speech at the school.
Barnes told The Oregonian: “I brought this case to stand up for myself and other students who might be afraid to express their right-of-center views. … 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.”
The school has now indirectly acknowledged, by agreeing to a settlement, that Barnes had a winning case. The school had shown tremendous bias in suspending Barnes out of concern he might offend students who support illegal immigration.
A school can act in an unbiased manner only by maintaining the exact same policies on political speech independent of the content of the speech. Teach students the sanctity of freedom, and critical reasoning skills.
Maybe Liberty High School will learn from its mistakes going forward.