NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. - A judge has granted a temporary restraining order that allows a high school student to retain parking privileges that were revoked by his school.
Tyler Maxwell, 18, brought a lawsuit against his school after he said he was wrongly punished for a political display showing support for President Donald Trump.
Maxwell said he has been so excited to cast his first vote for president, he and his father used a front-end loader to put a massive painted 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,” he said.
He explained that the statue is 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. Maxwell 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, he asked to put the red, white, and blue Trump elephant in his truck.
On Monday, September 14, Maxwell 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,” Maxwell said.
He tells FOX 35 News that his dad then drove down to the school asking for a reason in writing as to why his son could not leave his car parked on campus with the Trump elephant in the back. When they didn’t get one, Maxwell said he drove to school that Tuesday with the elephant in the tailgate.
“Tuesday morning, my parking pass was taken away,” he 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,” explained Maxwell’s attorney, Jacob Heubert, with Goldwater Institute.
“The school board has obligation to provide politically neutral campuses," the Volusia County Public Schools said in a statement. "We allow political expression by students in the form of a T-shirt or a bumper sticker. 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.”
Heubert filed a lawsuit against Volusia County Public Schools in Federal Court, accusing the district of violating the student’s freedom of speech. Maxwell switched to distance learning while he waited for a judge to make a ruling, which came down on Friday.
“I feel it is a violation of my First Amendment rights,” Tyler said.
“We're pleased that the court acted quickly to protect Tyler's First Amendment rights,” said Huebert. “Tyler looks forward to returning to school on Monday.”