South Portland High School sophomore Connor Mullen says he didn’t expect his peers to be particularly receptive of his “Make America Great Again” hat.
So he probably wasn’t surprised when, according to the Portland Press Herald, a female student took the red, trademark pro-Donald Trump hat and threw it in a trash can, or when another fellow student remarked to him, “I’m glad you’re being bullied.”
However, Mullen felt he needed to go to administrators when a teacher told the 16-year-old, “Thank God you can’t vote,” the Press Herald reported Tuesday. In another incident, an education technician took his hat and “held it up, evoking laughter from his classmates.”
It was after those events, Mullen told WCSH-TV, which first reported the story, that an assistant principal he met with to report the incidents suggested in order to solve the problem, Mullen “leave the hat at home.”
Mullen said he felt a double-standard was being applied to his support for the Republican candidate.
“People wear the Bernie [Sanders] pins all the time, and I’ve never heard anything about them,” Mullen told WCSH. “But I wear this hat, and now it’s, ‘Keep the hat at home.'”
Of course, such a suggestion would seem to rub up against the landmark First Amendment Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines, which guarantees students to not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
In an attempt to clarify, South Portland High School principal Ryan Caron told the Press Herald the assistant principal “suggested that (Mullen) might consider not wearing the hat.”
Ken Kunin, superintendent of the South Portland School Department, told the Press Herald that administrators “did follow up” with the two faculty members that reportedly mocked Mullen’s hat and would only say that “disciplinary action” had been taken against the student who threw the hat in the trash.
“This is a beautiful problem to have in a school because it’s a chance to practice democracy,” Kunin said. “It’s a great example of why we need public schools. You don’t all of a sudden wake up and know how to act in a democracy. You learn how to act in a democracy.”
Mullen, who says he wants to go on to work in the military and/or law enforcement, said he chose to wear the hat because, “I like the slogan, I like Donald Trump, and I like hats.”
He apparently is not alone. According to the Press Herald, two other students were seen Monday wearing “Mark America Great Again” T-shirts in apparent support of Mullen.