NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. - A Florida high school student is suing his school after he said he was wrongly punished for a display showing support for President Donald Trump.
Tyler Maxwell, 18, is so excited to cast his first vote for president, he and his father used a front-end loader to put a massive elephant figurine with "Trump" branding into the bed of his Ford pickup truck.
“I’ve been pretty excited for the last four years to be able to vote,” Tyler said.
He explained it’s an heirloom of sorts. His grandfather bought the elephant from an old car dealership and passed it on to his grandson before the 2016 election. Tyler said he helped his dad paint it and put it in the back of his dad’s pickup truck. Now that he’s old enough to drive and vote, Tyler asked to put the red, white, and blue Trump elephant in his truck. That was Sunday, September 13.
Monday, September 14, Tyler proudly drove to school with the decorated elephant in the back of his truck and parked it in the student parking lot. He said 20 minutes into his first class he was pulled out to have a talk with the principal.
“I was told to I had to go ahead and take it off campus,” Tyler said.
He tells FOX 35 News that his dad then drove down to the school asking for a reason in writing as to why Tyler could not leave his car parked on campus with the Trump elephant in the back. When he didn’t get one, Tyler said he drove to school that Tuesday with the elephant in the tailgate.
“Tuesday morning, my parking pass was taken away,” Tyler said.
He drove home, and his family got an attorney involved.
“It’s a freedom of speech case. The question is should a student have to give up his free speech right when he drives onto school property. The answer to that is no and the school just needs to realize that,” said Tyler’s attorney, Jacob Heubert, who works for the Goldwater Institute.
Volusia County Public Schools released a statement, which read in part, “The school board has obligation to provide politically neutral campuses…We allow political expression by students in the form of a T-shirt or a bumpersticker. But large signage is a different situation. A passerby could interpret a large sign in a school parking lot to be an endorsement by the school district…We don’t allow our parking lots to be used for political statements.”
Tyler’s attorney filed a lawsuit against Volusia County Schools in Federal Court, accusing the district of violating the 18-year old’s freedom of speech. For now, since he can’t drive his truck to the school with the Trump elephant in the back, Tyler has switched to distance learning, while he waits for a judge to make a ruling.
“I feel it is a violation of my 1st amendment rights,” Tyler said.