Free Speech

School District Provides $25K + Apology to Student Barred from Wearing "Trump Border Wall" T-Shirt

A follow-up to the May federal court decision holding that the school district's actions violated the First Amendment.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Liberty High School in Oregon barred student Addison Barnes from wearing this T-shirt to school, but in May a federal district judge issued a temporary restraining order requiring the school to allow the shirt. Now, Barnes' lawyer Bradley Benbrook (whom I've worked with before) reports that the school district has settled, providing "a $25,000 payment from the district for Barnes' attorney fees and a letter of apology from Liberty High School principal Greg Timmons." Barnes' statement:

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.

Benbrook's:

… The message on his shirt wasn't the point of this case. We brought the case to police the thought police….

The principal's:

Dear Addison,
Please accept my apologies for charging you with a suspension on Friday, January 19, 2018, for leaving campus. After discussing the matter with you and your father, the suspension was rescinded. I further apologize for any inconvenience or upset the charging of the suspension caused you.
Best wishes to you in the future.
Sincerely,
Greg Timmons
Principal

And the school district's statement, reported in The Oregonian (Maxine Bernstein):

School district officials said in a statement that courts have ruled differently in similar cases, leaving students' First Amendment rights in school a "gray area." They said they decided to settle the T-shirt case "given the cost and disruption of litigation."

The principal's letter was brief, apologized for Barnes' initial suspension and wished him well in the future, they said.

"As an educational institution," the statement said, "Hillsboro School District and each of our schools supports, encourages, and celebrates free speech and reasoned debate. We also have a responsibility to ensure that each of our students feels welcome and safe in our schools so they can effectively learn. This was an instance where we were challenged to do both simultaneously and the decision landed on the side of ensuring student safety. Moving forward, we will continue to use professional discretion to meet both objectives and will actively seek ways to turn sensitive situations into learning opportunities."

Thanks to Todd Rogers for the pointer.

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54 responses to “School District Provides $25K + Apology to Student Barred from Wearing "Trump Border Wall" T-Shirt

  1. “As an educational institution,” the statement said, “Hillsboro School District and each of our schools supports, encourages, and celebrates free speech and reasoned debate. We also have a responsibility to ensure that each of our students feels welcome and safe in our schools so they can effectively learn. This was an instance where we were challenged to do both simultaneously and the decision landed on the side of ensuring student safety.”

    If this is just face-saving, fine, but if this reflects what they actually think over at the School District, it is very bad.

    I am not saying there aren’t some gray areas, but this shirt wasn’t one of them. This is classic advocacy on a political issue, and it doesn’t remotely threaten anyone who is already here in the country. (Even undocumented immigrants.) It endorses building a wall to keep future persons out.

    “Some Hispanic students might be offended” is NOT a “safety issue”, and it isn’t a school district’s job or even a legitimate function of a school district to ensure that nobody is ever offended by political expression.

    1. Sadly, in previous cases it has been. In Morgan Hill, CA, students were told to either remove their American flag shirts, turn them inside out, or go home. Mexican flag attire was allowed. The students sued, 9th Circuit decided against them, USSC refused to hear the case.

      1. 1. That’s one case. Not plural.

        2. I am not sure the case was rightly decided, but I will say this– in the Morgan Hill case, there was (a) a history of racial strife on that particular day and (b) the ban on American flag displays applied to that day only. In other words, it’s at least the sort of specific record and narrow tailoring that Tinker contemplates with respect to what constitutes “disruption”. So it’s completely different than banning the shirt pictured above.

      2. That high-level administrative dunderheadedness happened once years ago and is used as proof that political correctness is broadly out of control ever since.

        1. The right hasn’t particularly covered itself in glory recently when it comes to school speech, either.

          1. I like the momentum I’m seeing, plus I think some (not all) of this uptick is just uncovering previous long-held anti-speech practices in schools.

    2. I think the end is nigh! Dilan and I agree on something.

  2. What an incredible “sorry not sorry” so-called apology.

    The principal should be publicly flogged then fired with extreme prejudice.

    1. Thank you.

      The principle should NEVER be around children again…

      And the teacher who bitched in the first case? Keelhaul that person.

  3. If Hispanics are indeed offended, that proves that they don’t belong here in America.

    1. I’m so glad you’re here to say who belongs or doesn’t belong in America. Constitution be damned.

      1. Constitution, eh?

        OK, Article I sections 8 and 9 address naturalization and immigration. Illegals are violating the laws thereby established.

        Got a problem with those laws? OK, either get Congress to change the laws, or get the people of the United States to change the Constitution.

        Simple, right?

        1. You seem to have switched ActualRightWingPatriot’s ‘Hispanics’ for ‘illegals.’

          Almost like all your rhetoric about illegals and what we should do to them is kinda a bit about Hispanics generally.

        2. You seem to have switched ActualRightWingPatriot’s ‘Hispanics’ for ‘illegals.’

          Almost like all your rhetoric about illegals and what we should do to them is kinda a bit about Hispanics generally.

          1. Almost like all your rhetoric about illegals and what we should do to them is kinda a bit about Hispanics generally.

            Man, I miss the days of being able to up-vote comments. People are wondering why I occasionally stand and applaud for no apparent reason.

        3. Thanks, I’ll make sure to tell my wife and daughter that even though they were granted birthright citizenship due to being born here to citizen parents that they’re actually illegal immigrants, on account of their race and ethnicity. Sadly, it seems that the same reasoning could apply to me if not for the fact that I’m white.

          Your version of America sounds like shit.

    2. Out of curiosity, do you apply the same reasoning to people offended by the “taking a knee” protests?

      1. No. If Hispanics are offended by references to a wall to keep illegals out, that means that they feel more kinship with their cucaracha “cousins” than with their fellow citizens. That means they’re not loyal and don’t belong here.

        That doesn’t apply to people who are offended by the “taking a knee” protests.

        1. Your logic is flawed; there are plenty of people who object to the wall for reasons other than the one you are assuming. (Not all of those reasons are necessarily sound.)

        2. Maybe they’re like me and are offended by lots of other things, such as a failure to understand the top sources of illegal immigration or the capabilities of an airplane, hypocrisy about wasteful government spending, inability to project building costs, failure to understand geography or engineering efforts necessary to complete such a project, excessive use of eminent domain to take property of people living along the border, etc.

        3. I feel equal amounts of kinship with and loyalty to each of my parents but if my mother were to intentionally offend my father I would still feel offended. Our citizenship oaths (which most of us don’t have to take anyway) don’t require blind loyalty.

          1. Irrelevant. You can’t support everyone with brown skin without opposing your fellow citizens.

      2. If I am “offended” by the knee protests, I will stop watching football. The marketplace will sort it out.

        If people are offended by the kid’s t-shirt, they will use the power of the state to punish him.

        Not saying I agree with ARWP’s statement, but there’s a big difference between addressing protests via public advocacy or your own spending choices and using the force of the state.

        1. Ironically, I suspect they were making the same logical error as ARWP, i.e., assuming that there was only one possible reason for wearing such a T-shirt.

          … but also, if the offended students were to attempt to “let the marketplace sort it out” by refusing to go to class, they’d be punished for it, so the situations aren’t really analogous. And if I understand the legalities correctly, that would also mean that the school would then have a legal rationale for going ahead and prohibiting the T-shirt. Huh. Not sure what to make of that.

  4. Please accept my apologies for charging you with a suspension on Friday, January 19, 2018, for leaving campus.

    Wow. Fuck that guy.

    1. charged with a suspension, after being told to leave?

      Yeah, Fuck that guy.

      If my kids were still school aged, we’d be homeschooling. Public schools are child abuse.

  5. The student got an apology letter and the attorney got $25,000? He should put those skills to better work and start doing class-action suits.

  6. People of course should be able to wear political stuff to public school, so I’m glad. But I just gotta say… “right-of-center views” is not accurate. The American right is well within reactionary territory. Maybe this shirt-wearer is more moderate than most, but “right-of-center views” is laughable when we’re speaking generally about people who support this president.

    1. The dark cloud of intolerance is always descending upon Republicans but it always turns out to be composed of progressives and Democrats.

      Portland ICE protesters spewed racist insults

      Quote:
      Federal officers policing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Portland say they were subjected to a barrage of hateful and at times racially-charged invective during the monthlong demonstration at the facility.

      Email records obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive detail some of the insults and taunting that several nonwhite federal officers say they endured.

      In emails obtained by the newsroom, one African American officer reported to an administrator that protesters “began yelling racial slurs” at him, including the N-word. The officer said he was also called a “blood traitor” and an Uncle Tom, a derogatory term implying a black person is acting subservient to whites for money or prestige.

      “These racial slurs have been directed at me throughout the entire length of the deployment,” the officer wrote.

      Another officer, who is a woman of Hispanic and Native American descent, said she was called derogatory terms for Hispanic people and told she is “a weak female” and a “traitor.”

      1. Haha maybe you shouldn’t be pointing at the left when it comes to the sin of racial rhetoric…

          1. Because anecdotal evidence is weak generally, but particularly so when the other side has actual white supremacists saying stuff on youtube, or on this thread.

            1. Seriously Sarcastro? The Progressive left is all over YouTube saying stuff. Hell, they even have several actual Congress members saying that people should violate the Constitution and Laws not to mention actual racist, sexist, etc. comments.

            2. “Because anecdotal evidence is weak generally, but particularly so when the other side has actual white supremacists saying stuff on youtube, or on this thread.”

              So after discounting the lived experiences of women and people of color, your attempt to excuse these racist and sexist comments is nothing more than a lame allusion to some videos on youtube? I expected at least a little better.

  7. “the decision landed on the side of ensuring student safety.”

    T-shirts, unsafe at any speed

    There is no such thing as a safe gun, a safe car, a safe ghost pepper, or a safe tshirt.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree about the ghost pepper.

    2. Ghost pepper spray is a necessary condiment although I agree for most people it is not safe!

  8. As usual, the educrats get off scot-free. How about a zero-tolerance policy for them for a change?

    1. They had to pay $25K. It was accepted by the plaintiff. What exactly did you have in mind?

      1. “the district will pay $25,000 for Barnes’ attorney fees.”

        Loser should pay, so that’s no big deal, especially when the taxpayers ultimately pick up the tab. Firing the educrats would be nice, but suspension without pay and a required course in the 1A rights of students would suffice.

        1. “…but suspension without pay and a required course in the 1A rights of students would suffice.”

          Where would you hold the course? Ministry of Truth?

      2. The taxpayers paid $25K, not the administeators. Although given prior rulings I can see how a principal may think they were authorized to prohibit that shirt.

        I’m glad the court got it right and said no they can’t.

      3. The TAXPAYERS paid the $25K. The school goon? Probably will get promoted.

        1. I sense that you don’t want him promoted. So what do you want to happen to him instead? Do you think he should pay $25K too? Do you think that will help the school district recruit competent administrators in the future?

          1. The Superintendent should be canned.

            The Principal should be demoted to teacher and never again promoted.

            The teacher should be stripped of license and sent to work at McDonald’s.

          2. “Do you think he should pay $25K too? Do you think that will help the school district recruit competent administrators in the future?”

            To the extent the competence includes not violating student’s first amendment rights? Yes, yes I do.

      4. The TAXPAYERS paid the $25K. The school goon? Probably will get promoted.

  9. Fledgling authoritarians and bigots-in-training have rights, too.

    1. How about Pavlov’s dogs? Do they have rights?

      1. Roseanne told Sean Hannity she is not a bigot and that Trump supporters are not bigots. Hannity said he believed her.

        Speaking of Pavlov’s dogs and Roseanne . . .

        cue the soundtrack

        1. A dim-witted TV star–who mostly favors left-wing causes–makes a bad joke. Is she a bigot?
          Jesse Jackson refers (one time, as far as we know) to NYC as, “Hymietown”. Is he also a bigot?

    2. Hmmmm….. is that the real AK or one of his many spoofers and mockers on Reason? It must be tough going thru life as a living example of Poe’s Law.

    3. And who is the authoritarian in this narrative, Art?

  10. ===Liberty High School===

    What a cosmic joke.

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