A high school in Wall, New Jersey is coming under fire for removing students’ pro-Trump messages from the yearbook.
Grant Berardo, a 17-year-old senior at Wall High School wasn’t old enough to vote for Trump in the 2016 election, so he decided to show his support by wearing a “Trump: Make America Great Again” T-shirt in his class photo, the New York Post reports. When he received his yearbook months later, he was surprised to see himself wearing a plain black tee — his Trump T-shirt had been Photoshopped to remove the slogan altogether.
Berardo told USA Today he was shocked to see his altered photo in the yearbook. “I sent [the picture] to my mom and dad, just like, ‘You won’t believe this.’ I was just overall disappointed,” he said. “I like Trump, but it’s history too. Wearing that shirt memorializes the time.”
According to NYP, Berardo wasn’t the only one to have his pro-Trump sentiments removed. Another student, who was not named, wore a fleece vest embroidered with a smaller “Trump” logo on picture day — his yearbook photo was also Photoshopped to remove the political message. And CNN reported that freshman class president, Montana Dobrovich-Fago, chose a Trump quote to accompany her picture — it did not appear in the finished yearbook.
Needless to say, people are not happy about this. Grant Berardo’s father Joseph told the New York Post “I want all the yearbooks reissued. […] And I want a letter from the administration explaining why the yearbooks are being reissued, and it should be used as a teaching moment related to the First Amendment in civil discourse.” The father also said he would consider legal action if the yearbooks were not reissued.
View on Instagram
Wall Schools superintendent Cheryl Dyer told USA Today that the only legitimate reason to alter a student’s photo would be if their clothing violated the school dress code, which prohibits items that reference drugs, alcohol, or violence. “Political shirts are absolutely not a violation of the dress code,” Dyer stated. At this point it’s not clear who erased the political messages from the yearbook, but Dyer said she’s “disturbed” by the incident, and is investigating why it happened.
Grant Berardo told NYP that another student wore an unaltered Reagan-Bush T-shirt in the yearbook, and that he remembered that students in past yearbooks have reportedly worn Barack Obama T-shirts. If that’s the case, then it would seem that pro-Trump messages were singled out for removal.
Students’ rights to express their political views through the clothing they wear to school is something that’s been fought for and protected all the way up to the Supreme Court. According to the ACLU website, the 1969 landmark case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District established established a student’s right to express their political views at public schools (in that case, the students wanted to wear black arm bands protesting the Vietnam War). Schools are allowed to prohibit clothing with “obscene, threatening, lewd or vulgar” messages, but students are not required to “shed [their] constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
In recent years, the ACLU has used that case to defend a high school student’s right to wear a T-shirt in support of LGBTQ rights. That’s a cause some may feel more comfortable standing by, but the right to express oneself politically at school doesn’t only apply to causes we agree with. And no matter how you feel about Trump, his election says something about our current political climate, and it’s not something that can be erased from history with a few clicks of the mouse.
It’s a cliché whenever the First Amendment comes up, but writer Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s words about free speech, where she paraphrased Voltaire’s philosophy, are relevant here: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Okay, maybe not to the death. But maybe the best response to students expressing pro-Trump ideas is for other students to wear their left-leaning politics with pride, too.
More Fashion Controversies:
- Paris Jackson Stands Up to Donald Trump With a Slogan T-Shirt
- Fashion Brands Slam Trump’s Withdrawal from Climate Agreement
- United Colors of Benetton Under Fire For ‘Sexist, Outdated’ Instagram Post
We shot this before Trump won and here’s why we still posted it…: