A California high school student who was banned from wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat on campus is challenging her school district for impinging on her First Amendment rights.
Maddie Mueller, who attends Clovis North High School in Fresno, is a member of Valley Patriots. The conservative activist group asked its affiliates to wear the well-known hat bearing Donald Trump’s campaign motto on Wednesday.
Ms Mueller said that officials at the school told her the school dress code prohibited it, according to CBS affiliate KGPE. Now Ms Mueller is fighting the district.
“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,” she told KGPE. “How does being a patriot in trying to show pride in your country – how is that inappropriate?”
Clovis Unified School District chief communication Officer Kelly Avants told KPGE that the dress code is in place “for kids to feel safe at school and free of distractions so they can focus on learning”.
“It’s unfortunate that our dress code is being misrepresented as specifically singling out a MAGA hat as that is not what the policy says,” she said on Thursday in a statement to Fox News.
“Unless causing an actual disruption on campus, MAGA apparel is acceptable, and this has been shared with the student.”
The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, which includes use of certain offensive words or phrases to convey political messages. But that right is not absolute, particularly for a student in a public high school such as Clovis North High.
In 2014, another California school prohibited students from wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo, requiring the children to either change or leave campus. As the Washington Post reported, school officials anticipated the clothing would cause “substantial disruption because of previous altercations”.
The 9th Circuit Court upheld the decision, writing that “school authorities [can reasonably] forecast substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities” stemming from the speech.
A 2018 Oregon lawsuit disputing a student’s suspension for wearing a shirt supporting construction of Mr Trump’s border wall turned out differently. The school settled the case for $25,000 and an apology from the principal.
Ms Avants said the Clovis dress code permits clothing with sayings or political commentary, and that Ms Mueller has also been reprimanded for violating the policy for wearing a T-shirt that read “build the wall,” according to KCBS-TV. She was also allegedly denied permission to wear another school-coloured hat supporting Mr Trump.
To that, Mueller told KCBS: “I don’t care if I offend anybody. I’m just showing support for the president and what I believe.”