Addison Barnes likes a good fight. So he showed up to school wearing a shirt bound to get people riled up. The senior at Liberty High School decided to wear a T-shirt to school that featured the words “Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co.,” which was a nod to the border wall former President Trump attempted to build during his single term in office.
However, Barnes’s school reacted negatively to the shirt and asked the boy to cover up or go home and change – he refused and was asked to sit out of school for the day. Barnes has since lawyered up with the help of his parents and hired a team of attorneys who helped him fight the school’s decision by filing a lawsuit against the school in question.
The lawsuit claims that a school official confronted Barnes about his shirt because a teacher and at least one student complained about it. The school asked him to cover up the T-shirt or go home to change into something more appropriate for school. Barnes decided to take the “suspension” and returned home. Although his absence was first marked as a suspension, the school later rescinded that from his permanent record.
Barnes decided to take his school to court to teach them a lesson about messing with a Trump supporter.
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.”
In the end, Barnes’s lawsuit won – but he didn’t receive any money. Instead, the school district settled with the attorneys representing the high school senior. The school district decided to pay $25,000 to cover Barnes’s attorney fees as well as have the school principal write an official apology to the student for asking him to cover up his shirt.
The Trump shirt was particularly offensive at Barnes’s school because one-third of the student body identifies as Hispanic. Many people in students’ families were deported because of Trump’s anti-immigration efforts that were heavily criticized during his single term in office.
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.”
However, Barnes believes his victory helps solidify the strength of the first amendment.
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.”
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.”
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