Originally posted on AZCentral.
By Paula Pineda
A Perry High School parent is refuting the school district’s description of what happened in a dispute involving her children and their Donald Trump gear on a school spirit day.
Jennifer Farris’ attorney, Bill Becker, said the school resource officer ordered Farris’ children to remove their pro-Trump clothing while they were taking pictures after school with a Trump banner.
Becker said in a letter to the Attorney General’s Office that Farris’ son was wearing a MAGA hat and her daughter was wearing a sweatshirt with the slogan.
His April 18 letter came in response to an Attorney General’s Office inquiry, prompted by state lawmakers, into whether school staff infringed upon students’ free-speech rights during the March 1 “Party in the USA” spirit day.
Some students and Farris had said school staff ordered kids to remove Trump clothing and accessories.
The school district, in its own response to the agency, said students weren’t asked to put away any political gear other than a Trump banner after a verbal altercation between students during lunch.
Farris and her attorney had until April 12 to respond to the agency’s inquiry but didn’t submit a response in time, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
The office delayed its release of the school district’s letter for several days so it would not influence Farris’s response but decided to release it after she failed to meet the deadline.
Farris was given an extra week to submit a response after the release of the school’s letter.
Lawyer: Kids targeted for what they were wearing
Becker said Farris’s children met up with friends after school to take pictures in their Trump attire and with the Trump banner.
He said School Resource Officer Jesse Allen approached the group and told students to remove their MAGA clothing and leave campus immediately.
Farris’s son asked the officer why he had to remove his hat and leave, but the officer didn’t give him a reason, he wrote.
He said the officer ordered the students to the principal’s office, and they complied. The officer then took pictures of the students, he said.
The district, in its letter, said Allen didn’t order students to remove their gear but did ask them to put away the Trump banner. A school administrator directed Allen to ask the students to leave after Allen reported seeing the students taking photos with the banner, the district said.
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The district said the officer asked the students to identify themselves. When they didn’t, he took a photo and sent it to the assistant principal so she could help identify them. Allen then was called to the office on a separate matter, the district said.
School surveillance video depicting the exchange, which was obtained by The Arizona Republic through a public-records request, shows the students taking pictures. Allen can be seen walking up to the group and exchanging words with them. There is no audio.
The officer then takes pictures of the group and walks off camera. Another video shows him walking toward the office.
Some of the students linger in the courtyard before a few of them can be seen heading toward the office.
Lawyer: School broke the law
Becker, president and CEO of California-based Freedom X, a conservative nonprofit law firm, said Farris’ children weren’t acting disorderly or being disruptive when he said they were asked to remove their gear. He said the officer’s order violated the students’ free-speech rights.
“School officials ordered the Farris children to remove their pro-Trump clothing and banner after the school day had ended and in an environment where no threat of anti-Trump hostility or substantial disruption of the school environment was present,” he wrote.
The U.S. Supreme Court has said students do not “shed their constitutional right to freedom of speech” when on a school campus. However, that right is limited if the speech disrupts school, creates disorder or invades the rights of others.
The Chandler Unified School District doesn’t ban political clothing or signs, but district policy prohibits “offensive” clothing and items that “interfere with school work, create disorder, or disrupt the education program.”
Watch this confrontation between Perry High School Principal Dan Serrano and mom Jennifer Farris. Student faces have been blurred to protect their privacy.Courtesy of Jennifer Farris
School’s investigation comes under fire
Becker’s letter didn’t address the district’s claims that students wearing Trump gear verbally harassed other students during lunch.
After receiving complaints from at least two parents who said students wearing MAGA gear were harassing their peers during lunch, school administrators interviewed seven students and reviewed videos that showed students were chanting “Trump” and at least one student called another a profane name.
Becker said Farris’ children didn’t witness the alleged lunch altercation.
He questioned the validity of the school’s investigation into the incident, calling it “incomplete, misleading and self-serving.”
“It is unclear whether the witnesses whose statements were taken held an anti-Trump bias, exaggerated their claims or were accurate and corroborated,” he said.
Becker also accused the district of omitting details of “its treatment of our clients” in its response to the attorney general.
He said the district falsely claimed that Farris went onto school grounds and was yelling and using profanity in front of students and staff. The district has not publicly retracted those statements and did not address them in its letter, he said.
While Farris was upset, she was not yelling and did not use profanity, Becker said. Farris can’t be heard using profane language in a 4.5-minute video of Farris’s heated exchange with school officials, which Becker previously provided to The Republic.
“Farris was upset, because, as she understood it, the school was singling her children out for disparate treatment because of their support for the president,” Becker wrote.
The district spokesman previously told The Republic that the district stands by its claims and that “three or four adults heard the language.”
Farris’ actions were not part of the scope of the attorney general’s inquiry.
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