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'Let's go, lawsuit':  Students sue after school forces them to remove 'Let's Go Brandon' sweatshirts

Dustin Chambers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Two students are suing a Michigan school district for viewpoint discrimination after school employees forbade them wearing sweatshirts opposing President Biden, the students' legal team announced in a statement Tuesday.

"These students should not only be allowed to express their political beliefs, but should be encouraged to do so," FIRE attorney Harrison Rosenthal said in the statement.

"America’s students must be free to exercise their constitutional rights, not just learn about them."

The case stems from multiple incidents in February 2022 and May 2022 at Tri County Middle School in Howard City, Michigan. School employees ordered two students to "remove 'Let's Go Brandon' sweatshirts despite allowing students to wear apparel with other political and social messages," the complaint alleges.

FIRE attorneys representing the students say the incidents are "part of a pattern of political favoritism by the school district." They add that during a field day, an administrator ordered a student to stop wearing a Trump flag as a cape, but permitted students to wear gay pride flags in the same manner.

Though the phrase originated as a means for mimicking a "f*** Joe Biden" chant, the phrase "let's go Brandon" contains no profane language. Therefore, FIRE attorneys reason, the school's dress code barring profane clothing does not apply.

"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."

The students are named only as "D.A." and "X.A." in the complaint. Defendants being sued in their individual capacity include TCMS Assistant Principal Andrew Buikema and TCMS teacher Wendy Bradford. The school district is also named as a defendant.

Buikema and Bradford were were acting "under color of law" when they ordered X.A. and D.A., respectively, to remove their "Let's Go Brandon" apparel, according to the complaint.

"Criticism of the president is core political speech protected by the First Amendment," Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression attorney Conor Fitzpatrick said in the 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."

Howard City is in west central Michigan about 35 miles from Grand Rapids. It has a population of approximately 1,967.

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