A Hillsboro High Schooler Was Sent Home For Wearing a Pro-Border Wall T-Shirt. Now He’s Suing the District.

The ACLU says he's right: “This shirt is mean spirited, but it isn't a ‘disturbance’ under First Amendment case law."

A senior at Liberty High School is suing the Hillsboro School District after he was sent home and suspended for wearing a T-shirt to school with a message supporting a border wall with Mexico.

Addison Barnes, the student who filed the lawsuit on Friday, May 18, was reprimanded in January by the school's assistant-vice principle Dr. Amanda Ryan-Fear for wearing a shirt that read "Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co," above a Trump quote: "The wall just got 10 feet taller."

As KGW first reported, Ryan-Fear allegedly asked Barnes to remove or cover up the shirt. When Barnes declined, Ryan-Fear had the school resource officer escort him out of his first period class, "People and Politics." According to the suit Barnes filed, the class was discussing immigration that day.

Ryan-Fear adds in the legal document that at least one student and a teacher came to her with complaints that the shirt had offended them.

Barnes was reportedly given two options: cover up or go home. He chose the latter and was given a suspension.

The lawsuit, filed Friday by Barnes' attorney Mike McLane in U.S. District Court in Portland, says Barnes was "engaged in a respectful, silent, and peaceful expression of his political views by wearing a t-shirt."

McLane also argues that the anti-immigration rhetoric displayed on Barnes' shirt should not qualify as a violation of the district's dress code, which prohibits, "clothing decorated with illustrations, words, or phrases that are disruptive or potentially disruptive, and/or that promote superiority of one group over another."

McLane told WW in an email, "Barnes has asked the court to hold that Liberty High School violated his free speech rights, and for the court to issue an order restraining the school from further such violations." He adds that Barnes has asked for "nominal damages should the court agree with him."

In a statement the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon sent to KGW, the group sided with Barnes.

"The school clearly crossed the line when it required a student to remove a T-shirt that voiced support for Donald Trump's border wall or face a suspension," ACLU of Oregon's legal director Matt dos Santos said. "This shirt is mean spirited, but it isn't a 'disturbance' under First Amendment case law.

"It is disappointing that Liberty High School decided to censor the student instead of inviting the student body to discuss immigration, the freedom of speech, and the impacts of xenophobic rhetoric."

A spokesperson for the Hillsboro School District did not immediately respond to WW's request for comment.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.