Skip to main content

MS high school forces student to remove ‘Trump’ face mask

ADF letter explains student can’t be singled out for expressing his beliefs

Tuesday, Nov 3, 2020
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.
# # # | Ref. 78065

Legal Documents

Related Resources

ABOUT Caleb Dalton

Caleb Dalton serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he plays a key role at the Center for Academic Freedom. Since joining ADF in 2013, Dalton has served on multiple teams representing private individuals and government entities to affirm the fundamental freedoms of speech and religious liberty. In 2017, he joined the Center for Academic Freedom where he has represented clients seeking to speak freely on campus without fear of unconstitutional government censorship. Dalton earned a J.D. at the Regent University School of Law, graduating cum laude. He is a member of the bar in Arizona, Virginia, and the District of Columbia; he is also admitted to practice before multiple federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

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.