Two middle school students who were ordered to remove “Let’s Go Brandon” sweatshirts filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a Michigan school district.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), which advocates for free speech and free thought, is representing the students at Tri County Middle School in Howard City, Michigan.
The suit alleges that the district engaged in viewpoint discrimination in February 2022 when an assistant principal and a teacher “ordered the boys to remove the sweatshirts” that featured a phrase critical of President Joe Biden while permitting other political attire like “gay-pride-themed hoodies.”
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“Criticism of the president is core political speech protected by the First Amendment,” FIRE attorney Conor Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “Whether it’s a Biden sticker, ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ sweatshirt or Gay Pride T-shirt, schools can’t pick and choose which political beliefs students can express.”
The district and its employees “are censoring students who try to express support for former President Donald Trump or opposition to President Joe Biden,” according to the complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division.
In its first lawsuit on behalf of K-12 students, FIRE seeks a “court order blocking the school district’s viewpoint-discriminatory ban on ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ apparel and a provision of its dress code banning students from wearing clothing which ‘calls undue attention’ to the student.”
According to FIRE, the incident involving the two students’ sweatshirts fits into a “pattern of political favoritism” by the school district.
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“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,” the group said.
“The slogan exists as a way to express an anti-Biden message without using profanity,” Fitzpatrick said. “A public school district cannot censor speech just because it might cause someone to think about a swear word.”
Used by conservatives to disparage Biden since October 2021, the “Let’s Go Brandon” catchphrase originated from a NASCAR interview and is a polite stand-in for the “F*** Joe Biden” chants popular at sporting events during the coronavirus pandemic.
FIRE attorney Harrison Rosenthal said students should not be forced to censor their political beliefs.
“These students should not only be allowed to express their political beliefs but should be encouraged to do so,” Rosenthal said. “America’s students must be free to exercise their constitutional rights, not just learn about them.”