The family of a Harnett Central High School student is preparing to bring legal action against a school principal after their child was asked to take off a shirt with President Donald Trump’s name on it at a football game last week.
Mike Collins said his son, Matthew, was participating in “USA America Night” Friday night which prompted him to wear a shirt with an American flag and the Statue of Liberty on the front. The shirt had the name Trump on the back with the number 45 on it. The shirt is similar to jerseys worn by athletes.
President Trump is the 45th president of the United States.
All students were encouraged to wear patriotic colors to the football game.
Mr. Collins said his son was toward the front of the students section interacting with fellow students and doing “what students do at a football game,” when he was approached by Harnett Central Principal Cindy Gordon. Mr. Collins said she told Matthew other parents in the crowd were upset by the Trump shirt.
Mrs. Gordon told Matthew he would have to change shirts if he wanted to remain at the game. She told him he would be allowed to return, with a different shirt on.
Matthew did not return to the game.
“He just went home because he was so embarrassed and he felt violated,” Mr. Collins said.
“Matthew felt this was a violation of his Constitutional rights,” Mr. Collins said. “This was handled the wrong way and it should have never happened.”
Mr. Collins said his son was targeted.
“My kid was singled out and it was unfair,” Mr. Collins said.
Mr. Collins said the family has retained Lillington attorney Tony Buzzard to represent them.
Mr. Buzzard described the actions of Mrs. Gordon as “clearly inappropriate.”
He said that following the investigation into the matter by the school board, “action will be taken against the principal and possibly others.”
Mr. Buzzard said he was told the student asked if it was an Obama shirt would it be OK to wear it and the principal said it would be.
Mr. Collins confirmed Matthew respectively asked if he would be allowed to wear a shirt with a different name on it and the principal confirmed he would be.
Harnett County School Board Chairman Bill Morris said he was made aware of the situation.
“The superintendent is conducting an investigation and he is handling it internally,” Mr. Morris said. “At this point we have no further comment.”
Messages left for Superintendent Dr. Aaron Fleming at both his office and on his cellphone were not returned as of Tuesday afternoon.
Harnett County School Board member Jason Lemons represents the Harnett Central district. He has a child who attends the school.
He said the issue concerns him.
“Any infringement on anyone’s freedom of speech should not be allowed,” Mr. Lemons said. “If a student is following the rules in the handbook, as this student apparently was, they should be allowed to live their life.”
Mrs. Gordon was not available for comment Tuesday and did not return messages left with school staff members.