In January, Addison Barnes, a senior at Liberty High School, wore a "Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co." t-shirt to class, which had scheduled a discussion of immigration issues later that day. The shirt read: "The wall just got 10 feet taller," quoting President Trump.
According to the lawsuit, Barnes was summoned by a school official who told him that a teacher and at least one student had taken offense because of the T-shirt. He was then asked to either cover the shirt or go home. Barnes chose to go home. His absence was marked as a suspension, but was later rescinded.
In a statement issued by his lawyers, Barnes said, "I brought this case to stand up for myself and other students who might be afraid to express their right-of-center views."
The Hillsboro School District reached a settlement with Barnes lawyers, requiring that the district pay $25,000 for attorney fees, and that the principal had to write an apology.
Liberty High School’s student body is one-third Hispanic, and a number of family members have already been deported. Students have had sit-in protests regarding the immigration policies, and there have been a number of racially motivated incidents.
The school district said, "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 stated that his First Amendment right to free speech had been violated, and that he’d been singled out because he was a Trump supporter.
He said, "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."
On May 29, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order barring the school from banning Barnes from wearing the shirt. The judge maintained that the censorship was not justified.
Mike McLane, a Republican member of the Oregon Legislature and a partner with Lynch Conger McLane, said: "Political speech, whether popular or not, is protected by the Constitution."
In a statement, Brad Benbrook, one of Barnes' attorneys, said "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."
The school district stated that they chose not to contest the lawsuit because it would have been costly and disruptive, and instead decided to compromise.