In January, 18-year-old Addison Barnes was targeted for his pro-Trump t-shirt. The high school senior from Hillsboro, Oregon, is getting the last laugh now.
Barnes was told by the principal of Liberty High School to go home or cover up his "Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co" t-shirt. Barnes refused, and he was suspended.
He then sued the high school, the principal and the Hillsboro School District. He contended that they had violated his First Amendment rights.
In late May, a federal judge ruled that they must allow Barnes to wear the shirt. According to Oregon Live, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman found there was "little justification in the court record for the Hillsboro School District to justify its censorship."
Now Barnes is really getting the last laugh. He and his lawyers have settled with the school district. Principal Greg Timmons will issue a letter of apology, and the district will pay $25,000 for Barnes' attorney 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 according to Willamette Week. "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 brought the case to police the thought police," added his attorney Brad Benbrook.
School district officials issued their own statement. They said that courts have ruled differently in similar cases, which leaves students' First Amendment rights in school a "gray area." However, they decided to settle to avoid further cost and disruption.
In a brief letter, the principal explained his decision. According to Oregon Live, he also apologized, but it's hard to find an apology in this statement.
"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."
Mike McClane, who represented Barnes and is the minority leader of the Oregon House, said in a statement that Barnes' situation was a "straightforward" First Amendment case.
"Political speech, whether popular or not, is protected by the Constitution," McLane said. "High school students have the right to express political views subject to restrictions that must be equally applied to all students. This case reinforced that proposition."
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