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Parents say students at Arizona school were told to remove MAGA gear, one was suspended

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 3/3/2019 Ellie Nakamoto-White
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PHOENIX – Parents at an Arizona high school are upset after school administrators demanded their children remove clothing and accessories that touted President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" logo.

Parents say some of the kids are now facing suspensions.

The students at Perry High School in Gilbert, which is part of the Chandler Unified School District, had come to school wearing the pro-Trump gear Friday. The day had been designated a spirit day with a  "Party in the USA" theme. 

A group of students showed up to school wearing red MAGA-themed hats and other clothing items. One student brought a Trump flag. 

The students had no trouble until the lunch hour, said Heidi Jones, a mother of one of those students.

"I feel bad for these children. I don't agree with everything our president does or says, but I respect our country and I'll support these kids using their freedom of speech," she said.

Administrators were walking around campus asking anyone they saw wearing the gear to remove it, Jones said. She said the the kids complied.

'The whole situation was weird'

Just before 2:30 p.m., after school let out, the students gathered outside to take pictures wearing the gear and holding the flag, Jones said.

The students noticed the school's police resource officer taking photos of them and others wearing MAGA gear without their permission, Jones said. When the officer asked her freshman daughter, Logan, for her name, the girl refused to answer, questioning why he needed her name.

"I thought the whole situation was weird. They're out of school, so why are you coming up to her?" Jones said.

When the girl refused, the officer said she had been a part of a disruption all day, that no one was allowed to have a Trump flag, Jones said. She said he told her daughter to go to the office. 

There, administrators asked her what her name was again. She responded that she wasn't going to answer any questions until her mother arrived, Jones said.

When Jones got to the school 10 minutes later, she found that the administration had suspended her daughter for 10 days.

"She came here today to support America, which is what your Spirit Day is all about. And now that she has refused to give her name, you're suspending her after she's complied with everything else?" Jones said. 

More: Woman who knocked off man's MAGA hat now faces deportation

Clothing considered 'offensive'

Jennifer Farris, another mom with a student in the group, gave a similar account to The Arizona Republic, saying assistant principals were among those asking the students to remove the items.

Farris also drove to the school after hearing her kids were being asked to remove the clothing. 

According to Farris, within four minutes of her walking into the office, she was told by school officials to leave and that she would not be allowed on campus again.

"As soon as they realized I was protecting my daughter, they were immediately rude, dismissive and told me to get off the property," Farris said.

Farris said she was told officials considered the clothing "offensive, and that the kids were being disrespectful by wearing it'' and could face sanctions if they didn't comply.

Terry Locke, a school district spokesman, confirmed that one student was suspended but would not specify the reason other than that it was not related to the MAGA gear.

"As you know, federal privacy prevents schools from discussing student discipline. One student was disciplined for a matter not related to wearing Trump attire," Locke said. 

He refused to comment further on any specific questions from The Arizona Republic regarding the incident. 

Moms want public apology

Farris questioned whether the students faced a political backlash.

"I think it's because the faculty didn't agree with the kids' message to support their president and they don't want them to express their feelings," Farris said. "My kids are expressing freedom of speech on USA Day. They're allowed to."

Both moms have contacted the superintendent's office about the matter.. 

"I want a public apology from the school district and the administration for how they treated not only the parents but also the students. There's no reason these kids should've gotten in trouble at all," Farris said.

Jones agreed, noting that to her, the situation wasn't politically charged. 

"They told me I was making this political and I told them this wasn't political at all. The fact is, if this was during a campaign situation, I would understand that her bringing this onto campus would be a distraction," Jones said. "However, this isn't political at all because he is already our president."

It is unclear what, if any, other sanctions were handed out besides the 10-day suspension.

More: Patriotic or racist? Trump's MAGA hats have become a hot-button issue

According to the school's handbook:

Students shall not wear clothing that display messages that are vulgar, offensive, obscene, or libelous; that demean others on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability; that promote alcohol or drug use or violence; or that are otherwise contrary to the school’s educational mission. The school administration retains the final discretion to determine that the garment or accessory meets the dress code. Some exceptions may be made for uniforms, formal attire, and/or costumes. 

The handbook also lists specific types of clothing or accessories not allowed, but does not specify anything about political speech. It does, however, note that school administrators have the discretion to decide if something is inappropriate. The policy is the same at other district high schools.

The handbook, which is posted on the school website, said students will be asked to remove anything inappropriate and replace it with an alternative or face "disciplinary action,'' which can range include warnings, detention, suspension, volunteer time or a parent conference.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Parents say students at Arizona school were told to remove MAGA gear, one was suspended

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