High School Student Suspended for Posing With Pro-Trump MAGA Flag and Sweatshirt
Last Friday, Perry High School in Gilbert, Ariz., suspended student Logan Jones after a security officer reprimanded her as she posed for photos in a "Make America Great Again" (MAGA) sweater while holding a pro-Trump "Make America Great Again" flag. On Wednesday, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sent a demand letter warning of legal action unless the school dropped the suspension. The school agreed to allow Jones to return to school that day but it refused to remove the suspension from her record.
"Public schools have a duty to respect the legitimate free expression of students that the First Amendment guarantees to them," Tyson Langhofer, ADF senior counsel and director of the Center for Academic Freedom, wrote in a statement Thursday. "While it’s good that the school is allowing Logan to return to school, it isn’t acceptable that this unjust suspension will remain on her record."
ADF will not accept this state of affairs. "As we continue discussions with the school, we are also consulting with Logan and her mother to determine what our next steps will be if the school doesn’t do the right thing and remove the suspension," Langhofer added.
According to the demand letter, Jones and her friends had dressed in patriotic and USA-themed clothing for a "Party in the USA Day" on Friday of Spirit Week.
"Immediately after school was dismissed at 2:14 p.m., [Jones] and a few of her friends went to one of the outdoor common areas of campus to take pictures together before they went home," the letter reads. "This is a common practice for [Jones] and many other students and it happens virtually every day after school without any interference by school officials. Less than five minutes after they arrived, while [Jones] and her friend were taking a picture in their MAGA sweatshirts and holding a flag that said 'Trump' and 'Make America Great Again,' a School Resource Officer approached and ordered [Jones] and her friends to leave."
Jones immediately obeyed and started packing up to leave. The officer took photos of her and her friends with his phone, began following her as she left campus, and then ordered her to give him her name. Jones asked why he needed her name, as she was complying with his order. At that point, the officer told her to speak with Vice Principal Heather Patterson.
Jones called her mother and told her about the situation. Her mother said she would come to the school herself and told Jones not to speak with anyone until she arrived. At the office, Jones was again asked to give her name. She "politely replied that her mother was on her way to the office and that her mother had instructed her not to answer any questions until she arrived."
Once the mother arrived, a brief discussion ensued between the mother, Principal Dan Serrano, Vice Principal Patterson, and the officer. Principal Serrano left, saying, "I am tired of hearing this. Logan Jones, you are suspended for 10 days. Get off of school property."
Jones was allegedly suspended for failing to identify herself to school officials, yet ADF argued that "this reason was mere pretext."
"Contrary to the stated reason, there is ample evidence to establish that you imposed the suspension against [Jones] based on a disagreement with the viewpoint of [Jones's] message," the letter states. "Multiple videos demonstrate the hostility that School officials displayed towards the messages expressing support for President Trump and his MAGA slogan. And it is our understanding that other students have been punished as well for expressing similar viewpoints."
"This blatant censorship of [Jones's] speech violates the First Amendment," the letter declares.
In dropping the suspension, the school seems to have recognized that punishing Jones for her pro-Trump and MAGA demonstration was a violation of her free speech. Even so, the school reportedly is refusing to drop the suspension from the girl's record.
No school should suspend a student for expressing a political viewpoint. Sadly, many liberals have stigmatized Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan as hateful, and it appears these school officials consider MAGA unacceptable. This school should have learned from the backlash and lawsuits after the media ran with the story that the MAGA hat-wearing Covington High School boys were haters.
The school's action violates the First Amendment. Students have the right to wear MAGA sweaters and hold Trump flags. This is outrageous.
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.