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Lawsuit filed against Mifflin County School District over political clothing ban

A high school sophomore filed the lawsuit after she was suspended for violating the district's clothing policy prohibiting students from wearing political clothing.
Credit: Earnest vs. Mifflin County School District lawsuit

MIFFLIN COUNTY, Pa. — A federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday against the Mifflin County School District in response to the district's dress code which bans clothing containing political and Black Lives Matter logos. 

Morgan Earnest, a sophomore at the High School filed the lawsuit claiming the district violated her civil rights. Earnest, 15, of Lewistown, says her free speech rights were violated when she was suspended on October 12 for wearing a mask that read 'Women for Trump' and a t-shirt  supporting President Trump's reelection campaign. The message on the front of her shirt read "Trump 2020 Keep America Great," and on the back, "Trump the Sequel Make Liberals Cry Again."

Credit: Earnest vs. Mifflin County School District lawsuit

School administrators adopted a clothing policy on October 1 which reads:

"Starting Monday October 5, 2020, no masks, articles of clothing or other items maybe worn or otherwise brought on to Mifflin County School District property, which contain political speech or symbolize a particular political viewpoint, including but not limited to confederate flags and swastikas, as well as BLM logos or phrases associated with that movement. This action is being taken due to complaints that have been received about such items and how those items have disrupted the education of students within the Mifflin County School District."

In a court filing, Earnest was called to the school office on October 12 and told to turn her mask and shirt inside out for the rest of the day. She refused and was suspended for the rest of the day and sent home, the lawsuit states. 

Credit: Earnest vs. Mifflin County School District lawsuit

Earnest says in the lawsuit she had worn her President Trump reelection t-shirt to school on two prior occasions. Earnest maintains in the lawsuit that her pro-Trump outfit never caused a disruption in the school. 

She claims the district's policy is unconstitutional because it violates her free speech and her right to due process of law. 

Credit: Earnest vs. Mifflin County School District lawsuit

The teenager is seeking to have her disciplinary educational record pertaining to this incident expunged and to bar the district from enforcing its clothing policy. Earnest is also seeking unspecified financial damages. 

Jim Estep, Superintendent for the Mifflin County School District, provided this statement in response to Earnest's lawsuit: 

"We strongly disagree with the allegations in the complaint, including the veracity of those allegations.  We stand by our decision, which was made in the interests of safety and to ensure students’ educational environment would not continue to be disrupted.  The decision was made after careful consultation with our solicitor and additional special legal counsel."

Related story: Mifflin County School District bans all clothing, masks containing political speech or symbols