ADF letter prompts MS school district to change policy that required student to remove ‘Trump’ face mask

New policy means students can’t be singled out for expressing their beliefs
Thursday, December 10, 2020

JACKSON, Miss. – Prompted by a letter from Alliance Defending Freedom, Rankin County Board of Education officials have voted unanimously to change policies that led to a Northwest Rankin High School student being forced to remove his face mask with the words “Trump -2020- Keep America Great!” on it. The policy changes from the board’s November meeting became official Wednesday when the board adopted that meeting’s minutes.

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 he had observed other students wearing masks to express their political beliefs. After receiving the ADF letter, the school district quickly suspended its policy. The newly revised policy prohibits such censorship going forward.

“Public schools should exemplify the First Amendment principles that they are supposed to be teaching to students,” said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton. “The Rankin County Board of Education demonstrated that it values the First Amendment by quickly addressing this issue and voting unanimously to change the policy so that students will no longer be censored as David Ferguson was. Other students within the school district have worn masks and shirts with political messages, including symbols supporting other political candidates, the LGBTQ community, and the words ‘Black Lives Matter.’ Now David and other students will have an equal opportunity to peacefully express their beliefs.”

As the ADF letter requested, the school’s revised policy eliminates the prohibition on “political” expression and prohibits viewpoint discrimination in enforcement.

“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. It’s vital that schools model and teach the value of the free exchange of ideas for the next generation. That’s why other schools around the country should take note of what the Rankin County Board of Education has done in quickly addressing this matter when it was brought to its attention and changing its policy to respect the constitutionally protected freedoms of its students.”

Sharkey Burke, one of more than 3,700 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.
 
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