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Standing Up for a Student’s Free Speech Rights

Maxwell v. Volusia County Schools

Case Status

Date Filed

October 22, 2020

Last Step

Victory! The Court entered final judgment declaring that the school violated Tyler Maxwell’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech and ordered the school to permanently restore his parking privileges.

Next Step

Case Overview

Should students have to give up their First Amendment rights when they arrive on school property? The Supreme Court has long said no—at least if a student’s expression isn’t substantially disrupting the school’s normal activities. Unfortunately, some schools still haven’t gotten the message.

Tyler Maxwell is a high-school senior in Volusia County, Florida, and looks forward to voting in the 2020 election. To promote his preferred presidential candidate, he put a statue of an elephant decorated red, white, and blue with the candidate’s name on it in the back of his pickup truck. But after he parked the truck in his school parking lot, school officials took him out of class and told him to take the elephant home and leave it there. If he didn’t, he’d have to give up his parking privileges.

School officials did this even though the elephant caused no disruption, and the school had no policy against political messages on vehicles. In fact, others at the school display political messages on their vehicles and even on their apparel without causing any disruption and without being punished by the school.

Public schools shouldn’t discourage, let alone punish, student political expression. So the Goldwater Institute has sued the Volusia County Schools to protect Tyler’s First Amendment rights.

Case Logistics

The plaintiff in this case is Tyler Maxwell, an 18-year-old high school senior who wants to display his support for his preferred presidential candidate on his truck—but has been banned from parking at his school unless and until he removes the political message.

The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida on October 22, 2020.

The lawsuit seeks a court order that: (1) declares that the Volusia County Schools violated Tyler Maxwell’s First Amendment rights when it revoked his parking pass based on his vehicle’s political message; and (2) orders the Schools to immediately restore his parking privileges.

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