The evil shirt Tri-County school officials banned
Bring a gun to a knife fight: Because school officials at Tri-County Middle School in Michigan forbid two students from wearing sweatshirts that said “Let’s Go Brandon” on their fronts, even as they permitted other students to wear shirt promoting the queer agenda, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has filed a lawsuit against the schools.
In Feb. 2022, two Tri County Middle School students wore sweatshirts to school with the phrase “Let’s Go Brandon,” a political slogan critical of President Biden with origins in a more profane chant. Even though the political slogan is widely used — multiple members of Congress used it during floor speeches — an assistant principal and a teacher ordered the boys to remove the sweatshirts. However, administrators allowed students to wear apparel with other political messages, including gay-pride-themed hoodies.
The incident is part of a pattern of political favoritism by the school district. When the school district relaxed the dress code for field day, a school administrator ordered a student to stop wearing a Trump flag as a cape, but permitted other students to wear gay pride flags in the same manner.
You can read the complaint here. It not only names Tri-County Area Schools as a defendant, it also names assistant principal Andrew Buikema and teacher Wendy Bradford, the two school officials who forced the students to remove the sweatshirts. The lawsuit also cites other examples where Buikema acted to silence the speech of conservative statements, while allowing other students to freely advocate the queer agenda.
The lawsuit claims these actions violated both students first and fourteenth amendment rights. It demands a permanent injunction enjoining the school from such actions, and demands compensatory and punitive damages as well as all legal fees and costs.
Though FIRE has filed many lawsuits defending freedom of speech at universities, this is its first lawsuit defending those same rights for K-12 students. It notes correctly that Supreme Court rulings since 1969 have repeatedly affirmed the rights of public school students to exercise their first amendment rights, and that the clearly partisan actions of school officials in this case is blatantly illegal.
The history of the phrase “Let’s Go Brandon” is itself amusing. It quickly replaced an obscene chant cursing Joe Biden at sports events when a television reporter, interviewing NASCAR driver Brandon Brown, made believe the chant fans were yelling in the background was “Let’s Go Brandon!” when it very clearly was not. Opponents of Joe Biden quickly adopted “Let’s Go Brandon” as a humorous and non-obscene way to condemn the president.
The school officials claimed its visibility on the students’ clothing was the equivalent of an obscenity. As noted by FIRE attorney Conor Fitzpatrick,
“The slogan exists as a way to express an anti-Biden message without using profanity,” explained Fitzpatrick. “A public school district cannot censor speech just because it might cause someone to think about a swear word.”
Obscene or not, the court has consistently favored free speech in these matters. That the school clearly had a partisan bias as to the political messages it would allow students to make, expect this school to lose, and lose badly and quickly.
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