Maddie Mueller, a California high school student, has been banned from wearing her “Make America Great Again (MAGA)” hat to her high school, Yahoo News is reporting. The teen says that this is a clear violation of her First Amendment rights.
Maddie is a member of a conservative group, the Valley Patriots. On Wednesday, the group asked its members to wear the red-and-white hats, the symbol of the Trump administration. Maddie planned to proudly wear hers to Clovis Valley High School, where she’s a senior.
However, as KGPE-TV (Fresno) reports, school officials told her she wouldn’t be allowed to wear the hat, due to the school’s dress code, which prohibits, among other things, items with logos. She asked if she could wear an alternative hat, such as a Trump hat with school colors, and was also told no.
She says she’s baffled as to how school officials connected the President of the United States to a commercial logo. Especially since, as KGPE points out, the school’s dress code does not specifically prohibit clothing with political messages.
“To my knowledge Trump is not a logo it’s a last name, it’s just our President, you can’t claim the President is a logo, sports team or affiliated with any gang.”
Clovis Unified School District spokesperson Kelly Avants, however, says the dress code is there for a reason.
“Bottom line for us is the dress code is for kids to feel safe at school and free of distractions so they can focus on learning.”
In fact, Maddie says she’s been dress-coded “many times” at her school for wearing T-shirts that say “build the wall.”
“I don’t care if I offend anybody I’m just showing support for the President and what I believe.”
Maddie believes her First Amendment rights to free speech are being violated. However, as it turns out, First Amendment rights in public high schools aren’t absolute, says former federal district judge Oliver Wanger.
“If the hat is something that could invoke violence or invoke controversy, then for the sake of the safety for students the school is in their legal right.”
Similarly, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which often represents students in free-speech cases against their schools, says that, students in public schools don’t leave their First Amendment rights at the door, there are limits. For example, schools can enact “content-neutral” policies that prohibit the wearing of hats, but can’t prohibit certain hats while allowing others. Similarly, a school can’t arbitrarily forbid what you wear because officials disagree with the message or find it in bad taste.