Teenage girl banned from wearing a MAGA hat sues her high school
First posted July 16, 2019 5:36pm EDT
Last updated July 22, 2019 9:58am EDT
All Associated Themes:
- Hate Speech
- Legal Action
- Violence / Threats
Maddie Mueller, a student at Clovis North High School in Fresno, California, was banned from wearing her “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hat — a sign of support for President Donald Trump — in school, because, according to school district administrators, it would make other students feel “unsafe.” Mueller wore the hat as part of a demonstration and sued the school for violating her First Amendment rights.
Maddie Mueller, a senior at the time of the incident, is a member of the “Valley Patriots,” a conservative student group that planned to wear matching MAGA hats to school on Feb. 20, 2019. She is contesting the school district’s decision to ban the hats.
Kelly Avants is the spokesperson for the Clover Unified School District, of which Clovis North High School is a part.
After Mueller raised her complaint to the school district board, Clovis administrators responded by citing the school’s dress code, which does allow students to “wear shirts or other clothing with a wide variety of sayings and/or political commentary,” Avants told Yahoo. She also said that “MAGA apparel is acceptable” but that hats have specific guidelines. According to National Review, Avants said that headgear is allowable so long as it bears the school logo and/or solid school colors. Mueller claimed that she asked the school if she could wear a MAGA hat in school colors, but the school allegedly denied her request, National Review reports. “How is being a patriot in trying to show pride in your country — how is that inappropriate?” Mueller told Sacramento-based CBS affiliate KGPE.
The school officials argued that while they did not have a problem with Mueller’s politics, they were acting to prevent on-campus disruptions. As Avants told KGPE, “Bottom line for us is the dress code is for kids to feel safe at school and free of distractions so they can focus on learning.”
Mueller has been reprimanded for violating the school dress code in the past, The Washington Post reports. For example, she once wore a T-shirt that read “build the wall” (a reference to Trump’s advocacy of building a wall along the U.S. southern border with Mexico), according to KCBS-TV. She was also allegedly denied permission to wear another school-colored hat supporting Trump.
Oliver Wanger, a former federal district judge who is now active as a private mediator and arbitrator, agrees that Mueller’s First Amendment rights seem to have been violated. But, in this case, he says the district may have acted justly. “[If] the hat is something that could invoke violence or invoke controversy, then for the safety of the students the school is within its legal right,” Wanger told yourcentralvalley.com.
The Post notes that cases like Mueller’s have been decided in various ways. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a clothing restriction in Dariano vs. Morgan Hill, a 2014 case in which students in a California high school were banned from wearing U.S. flag apparel on Cinco de Mayo, a historical Mexican holiday widely celebrated in the United States. Another pertinent case took place in 2018. In Barnes v. Liberty High School, U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon, ordered a high school to pay a $25,000 settlement to a student who was suspended for wearing pro-Trump apparel.
While the Mueller case has yet to be decided, Wanger says that, as long as safety remains a serious concern, it will be in the school district’s interest to prevent Mueller and her group from wearing MAGA hats to school.
Lawsuit awaits decision
Mueller’s lawsuit has been filed and is awaiting a decision.