The Oregon high school senior who sued the Hillsboro School District and his principal as previously reported by the Inquisitr has won his case in defense of his First Amendment rights. CBS News reports that Addison Barnes, 18, was successful in his claim that his suspension for wearing a “Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co.” t-shirt violated his right to free speech and expression of his political ideals.
The Hillsboro School District must pay Barnes’ legal fees, totaling $25,000. Additionally, he will be in receipt of a formal apology from Principal Greg Timmons, in which Timmons expresses his apologies for Barnes’ suspension from school and wishes him the best in the future.
In a statement delivered on Addison Barnes’ behalf by the attorneys representing him, the high school student makes his impetus very clear and unambiguous.
“I brought this case to stand up for myself and other students who might be afraid to express their right-of-center views.”
The scenario began in January of this year when Barnes wore the t-shirt to school in advance of a scheduled class discussion surrounding immigration issues, including illegal border crossings and illegal aliens facing deportation under a new, more strict Trump administration attempting to deliver on promises made during his election campaign, including the border wall.
The shirt in question also displayed the quote, which is often popularized and promulgated on social media platform Reddit’s pro-Trump the_donald forum, “The wall just got 10 feet taller,” according to Fox News Insider. The pro-Trump forum has an automated “MAGABrickBot” which responds to text requests from users for bricks and adds them to a fictional wall that grows increasingly taller.
As written in the lawsuit, allegedly Barnes was summoned immediately to the administration office where he was told that at least one student and one teacher had found his shirt offensive. Barnes was then told to remove the shirt and to change into something else or to simply go home. Barnes chose the latter avenue and was suspended for his absence, which was later rescinded according to the Hillsboro School District.
Approximately a third of Liberty High’s student population identifies as Hispanic, with several students having family members that have been deported from the country due to their alleged illegal residency. There have been several events hosted by the high school as well, including a sit-in to protest immigration policy under President Donald Trump’s administration, and several race-related “incidents,” according to school district spokespeople in a statement released Tuesday.
“Liberty High School administration believed they could reasonably forecast that Mr. Barnes’ shirt might cause other students to feel unsafe and could potentially lead to walkouts, altercations, or other disruptive actions… [School administrators] acted out of an abundance of caution on behalf of the student body to ensure safety.”
Barnes claimed that his First Amendment rights to free speech had been infringed upon, and on May 29, a federal judge concurred with Barnes’ assessment, issuing a temporary restraining order preventing authorities at the school from barring Barnes, or his shirt, from class. The federal judge said that the district and the Liberty High administration had not justified their censorship.
Two law groups representing the case — the Benbrook Law Group of Sacramento, California and Lynch Conger McLane of Bend, Oregon — pointed out that Liberty High School had allowed one of their own teachers to hang a placard promoting sanctuary cities, areas that promote prolonged residency of illegal aliens and seek to shield them from legal deportation efforts.
Barnes makes it plain that he believes he was unfairly singled out for his pro-Trump position and viewpoints.
“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.”
Brad Benbrook, one member of Barnes’ legal counsel, reiterated this sentiment in his own statement as reported by CBS Portland affiliate KOIN.
“Addison Barnes should be commended for his courage… The message on his shirt wasn’t the point of this case. We brought the case to police the thought police. The First Amendment does not allow what is going on in too many schools today.”
For their part, the school district claims that they decided to settle the case out of a sense of expediency and compromise, claiming that an extended legal battle would have been prohibitively costly and disruptive.