In January, 18-year-old senior Addison Barnes was suspended from Liberty High School in Hillsboro, Ore., for wearing a T-shirt that read “Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co. The wall just got 10 feet taller.”
Now, on top of the principal of the school having to apologize to the student, the school will have to pay $25,000 for Barnes’s attorney fees, according to the Oregonian.
Barnes said that suspending him for wearing a shirt that supports Trump’s immigration and Homeland Security policies was a violation of his right to free speech. According to Barnes’s attorney, the message on the shirt was not the issue, but high school students have the right to express their political views.
“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. “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.”
“I had a teacher who had a pro-sanctuary-city poster in her room, which was up all year, yet as I wear a pro-border wall shirt, I get silenced and suspended for wearing that,” Barnes told KGW.
The school and principal chose to settle the case “given the cost and disruption of litigation.”
Principal Greg Timmons offered Barnes a short written apology and wished him well in his future.
The school initially asked Barnes to cover up the shirt or to go home as they believed it would contribute to a “hostile learning environment,” and that some students would feel insecure in the school as 33 percent of Barnes’s peers are of Hispanic descent.
In a statement, Principal Timmons wrote: “As an educational institution, 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.”
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