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A Florida high school student was banned from his parking spot after he put a large pro-Trump elephant statue in the back of his pickup truck, which administrators say is a violation of school rules.
The decision by Spruce Creek High School to revoke his parking pass last month stunned Tyler Maxwell, 18, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
“I wanted to put the elephant on the back of my truck because it was the first time that I was going to be able to vote,” Maxwell said, in reference to the red, white, and blue statue emblazoned with “TRUMP.”
“I support President Donald Trump and I wanted to be able to show that,” he added.
School officials said that the display is a violation of school board policy 805, a rule that restricts political activities at school events and on school property.
According to the News-Journal, Maxwell drove onto the school’s campus last month but was pulled out of his first-period class and told that he would have to return the elephant to his home and not bring it back.
He said his father spoke to school officials but could not get the issue resolved. As such, when Maxwell tried to drive onto school property the following day with the elephant still in the back, he was met by the principal, who stopped him and revoked his parking pass.
“I felt like my First Amendment rights for expressing how I felt about the president were being suppressed, and I wasn’t going to just sit there and let them tell me I can’t express myself,” Maxwell — who has retained an attorney — said.
Jacob Huebert, a senior attorney for the conservative and libertarian think tank the Goldwater Institute, filed suit against the school on Thursday, the News-Journal said.
“Courts across the country have held that students are able to engage in political speech, even speech that’s much more provocative than the president’s name on a symbol of the Republican party,” Huebert told the paper.
The school district’s general counsel, Kevin Pendley, sent a letter to both Maxwell and Huebert explaining that there is also legal precedent allowing schools to regulate certain political speech as well, while they’re on campus.
Pendley also said that the district has a general policy regulating political activities on school property or in school buildings. The policy says that “under no circumstances” will political signage promoting issues, candidates, or other causes be posted permanently in or on school property. The rule says signage is only allowed when it’s being utilized by a political group.
“We allow political expression by students in the form of a T-shirt or bumper sticker. But large signage is a different situation,” district spokeswoman Cindi Lane said in an email to The News-Journal. “A passerby could interpret a large sign in a school parking lot to be an endorsement by the school district.”
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Roy B. Dalton Jr., an Obama appointee, granted a temporary restraining order, allowing Maxwell to put the statue back in his truck and park on school property without being punished until Nov. 6, when a hearing is scheduled.
Maxwell had been attending classes remotely but returns for in-person instruction on Monday.
In the 1960s as demonstrations and protests swept the country during the Vietnam War, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District that school officials could not prevent students from wearing black armbands to protest the conflict.
“Twenty years later, high school journalists sued their school principal and journalism teacher for violating their First Amendment rights and removing two articles about teen pregnancy from a school-sponsored newspaper,” the News-Journal reported.
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