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School refuses to remove illegal suspension of MAGA-wearing teen from her record

Not welcome on ‘Party in the USA Day’

Arizona’s Perry High School apparently wants to get sued for violating a student’s First Amendment rights by leaving its illegal suspension on her record.

The Alliance Defending Freedom implied Thursday it would sue the school for only meeting half of the conservative legal group’s demands about Logan Jones, its client.

Jones wore a Make America Great Again sweatshirt for the school’s “Party in the USA Day” last Friday, according to the alliance’s Wednesday letter to Principal Dan Serrano. Students were explicitly encouraged to wear “patriotic or other USA-themed clothing.” (“Party in the USA” is a Miley Cyrus song.)

After school, an unidentified “School Resource Officer” ordered Jones and her friends to leave campus as they were taking pictures in their MAGA sweatshirts and holding a MAGA “Trump” flag.

When they complied, the officer started taking photos of Jones and following her group, eventually ordering Jones to provide her name. She asked why, since she was already complying with the officer’s unexplained order.

The officer then ordered Jones to speak with Vice Principal Heather Patterson. Jones called her mother, who told her daughter “she was coming to the school immediately and not to talk with anyone until she arrived,” according to the alliance.

Serrano Once in Patterson’s office, Jones again refused to identify herself, citing her mother’s directions. Heidi Jones arrived about 10 minutes after Logan called her. Patterson and Principal Serrano (left) apparently have adjoining offices, because the alliance says Patterson “closed your door” when Heidi arrived to discuss the issue with the mother and “Mr. Greene,” apparently meaning Assistant Principal Joe Greene.

“After several minutes of this conversation, you came out of your office and said ‘I am tired of hearing this,'” the alliance said, referring to Serrano. “Logan Jones you are suspended
for 10 days. Get off of school property.”

While the administration claimed Jones was suspended for refusing to identify herself, “the evidence is clear that this reason was mere pretext” for viewpoint discrimination, the alliance wrote:

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.

Perry High School has no evidence that the MAGA clothing “materially and substantially
interferes with the operation of the school or infringes upon the rights of other students,” the only permissible grounds for restricting a student’s speech under Supreme Court precedent, the alliance wrote.

“Here, the School punished Logan for wearing a shirt and holding a flag after school hours that expressed support for the current President of the United States,” it concluded. “This is blatant viewpoint discrimination.”

While Perry High School met the first half of the alliance’s demand – lifting Jones’ suspension and letting her come back to school – it has refused to “remove any mention of the punishment from Logan’s records,” according to an alliance statement Thursday.

Tyson Langhofer, director of the alliance’s Center for Academic Freedom, said it’s “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.”

Its letter had promised to “immediately begin the process of seeking judicial review of your unconstitutional actions in federal court” if both demands weren’t met.

Video contradicts principal’s claim about F-bomb mother

Before the alliance sent its warning letter, the Arizona Republic reported Tuesday that school officials and parents disagreed on what the students had been ordered to do.

A spokesperson for the Chandler Unified School District said the only directive given to Trump-supporting students that day was to “put away a Trump banner during lunch” because of a “verbal altercation among students.”

Another student who disagreed with the Trump fans, however, said there was no “disruption during lunch.” Jennifer Farris, a mother with two students in the Trump-supporting group, said a school resource officer told her son to remove his MAGA hat.

Serrano wrote a letter to parents claiming that Jones and her friends “declined” to leave campus when asked by the school resource officer, and refused Serrano’s request for their names and school identification, as required by school policy.

The alliance letter claims Serrano didn’t intervene in the meeting with Patterson and Greene until he told Jones she was suspended, however.

The disputed lunch incident was apparently the grounds for the resource officer to demand Jones and her friends leave campus after they brought out the “signage” again.

Serrano’s claim that Farris, the mother of two students, was ejected from campus after screaming and using “profanity, including the ‘F’ word,” was contradicted by video evidence.

The Republic posted video provided by Farris that contradicts the principal’s claims. It shows her “meeting her children in the front office and then walking over to speak with Serrano and another man, who is off camera”:

The interaction escalates as Farris and Serrano go back and forth on why her daughter was asked to leave the campus after school.

Farris can be heard calling Serrano “a jerk,” but she did not use profane language in the video.

Farris’s lawyer also provided the Republic a longer video that contradicts Serrano’s profanity claim, but the school district insists that “Three or four adults heard the language.”

Newspaper neglects journalistic obligation to readers

The Republic turned on Farris later on Tuesday, however, publishing a misleading article that said she “has a tie to [a] racist Snapchat video.”

That video showed “several students chanting racist lyrics to a rap song [that] was shot at Farris’ home,” but Farris told the newspaper that neither her children nor the others punished in the MAGA incident were involved in that video. The students in the video were in middle school when it happened.

Neglecting its journalistic obligation to readers, the Republic has apparently never identified the song so they can evaluate its content. The newspaper’s report on the video a year ago provides some information about why it offended parents, but not its full context.

The song features the chant “(Expletive) all N—–s,” and it “leads with a lyric celebrating the death of Martin Luther King Jr., and recounts numerous racist stereotypes.” A school official first claimed it was a song “released 18 years ago” and then “clarified it was another song.”

Once more doing a disservice to its readers, the Republic simply said the song had racked up “more than 100,000” plays on YouTube and Soundcloud.

The College Fix found one song that matches the cited chant, by an artist known as Bobby2Pistols. Most versions on YouTube seem to be remixes or response videos by other users listening to the song. One video appears to use the underlying track but its video may not be related.

Meanwhile, a black rapper released a song with a similar title in 2015. It has nearly seven million views on YouTube.

Read the alliance letter and its Thursday statement.

IMAGES: NOBUHIRO ASADA/Shutterstock, Chandler Unified School District

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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