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ADF letter prompts school to let MAGA-wearing student return, but officials won’t remove suspension from record

ADF represents student at Perry High School in Gilbert, Arizona

Thursday, Mar 7, 2019

Attorney sound bite:  Tyson Langhofer

GILBERT, Ariz. – Perry High School agreed late Wednesday to allow a student who wore “Make America Great Again” attire to return to school after Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter on behalf of the student to the principal. The school’s legal counsel told ADF, however, that the school will not remove the suspension student Logan Jones received from her record—a problem likely to prolong the controversy.

“Public schools have a duty to respect the legitimate free expression of students that the First Amendment guarantees to them,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “While it’s good that the school is allowing Logan to return to school, it isn’t acceptable that this unjust suspension will remain on her record. As we continue discussions with the school, we are also consulting with Logan and her mother to determine what our next steps will be if the school doesn’t do the right thing and remove the suspension.”

The school suspended Jones when she and a friend wore MAGA sweatshirts and displayed a pro-Trump MAGA banner after school hours on “Party in the USA Day,” which took place March 1 as part of the school’s Spirit Week. The two stood in an outdoor common area of campus when a school resource officer approached them and ordered them to leave, telling them that they could take any questions they had to Vice Principal Heather Patterson.

The students complied with the officer’s order and began to pack up and leave campus, but he proceeded to take pictures of them and follow them. He then asked Jones for her name, and she questioned why he needed it since they were leaving. The officer then ordered Jones to speak with Patterson, and she complied.

On the way to Patterson’s office, Jones phoned her mother, who told Jones not to say anything more until she arrived. After she arrived within 10 minutes, Patterson spoke directly with Jones’s mother, but after several more minutes, Principal Dan Serrano came out of his office and said, “I am tired of hearing this. Logan Jones, you are suspended for 10 days. Get off of school property.”

“The alleged reason given for Logan’s suspension was that she had failed to identify herself when asked by school officials. However, the evidence is clear that this reason was mere pretext,” the ADF letter to Serrano stated. “Contrary to the stated reason, there is ample evidence to establish that you imposed the suspension against Logan based on a disagreement with the viewpoint of Logan’s message. Multiple videos demonstrate the hostility that School officials displayed towards the messages expressing support for President Trump and his MAGA slogan. And it is our understanding that other students have been punished as well for expressing similar viewpoints. This blatant censorship of Logan’s speech violates the First Amendment.”

“Today’s students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, educators, and voters,” Langhofer said. “That’s why it’s so important that public schools demonstrate the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students.”

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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ABOUT Tyson Langhofer

Tyson Langhofer serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom and director of its Center for Academic Freedom. Before joining ADF, Langhofer was a partner with Stinson Leonard Street LLP, where he worked as a commercial litigation attorney for 15 years and earned Martindale-Hubbell’s AV Preeminent® rating. Langhofer earned his Juris Doctor from Regent University School of Law, where he graduated cum laude in 1999. He obtained a B.A. in international business with a minor in economics from Wichita State University in 1996. A member of the bar in Virginia, Kansas, and Arizona, Langhofer is also admitted to practice in numerous federal district courts.