JACKSON, Miss. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys sent a letter Tuesday on behalf of a student to Northwest Rankin High School after officials there forced him to remove his face mask with the words “Trump -2020- Keep America Great!” on it.
The student, David Ferguson, wore the mask to peacefully express his support for the re-election of President Donald Trump. Ferguson was walking through the hallway at school when one of the principals pulled him aside and required him to remove the mask because it was “political.” Ferguson complied with the principal’s request, even though other students have used their masks to express their political beliefs.
“Public schools have a duty to respect the free expression of students that the First Amendment guarantees to them,” said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton. “While school administrators face challenges in helping students navigate school life while wearing masks at this time, they simply can’t suspend the First Amendment or arbitrarily pick and choose the messages that students can or can’t express. Other students within the school district have freely worn masks and shirts with political messages, including symbols supporting other political candidates, the LGBTQ community, and the words ‘Black Lives Matter.’ This student deserves an equal opportunity to peacefully express his beliefs.”
As the ADF letter explains, the school’s current policy allows officials to unfairly target students for their beliefs. The letter requests that the school allow Ferguson to immediately wear his Trump face mask, revise school policy to respect all viewpoints as the First Amendment requires, and provide First Amendment training for administrators at the school.
“No public school student should be singled out for peacefully expressing his political position or sharing his beliefs with fellow students,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Today’s students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, educators, and voters. That’s why it’s so important that public schools demonstrate the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students.”
Sharkey Burke, one of more than 3,400 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel for Ferguson.
- Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-uhr)
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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