Suit: School, accused lawmaker illegally handed out shirts

November 15, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A state lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct now faces a lawsuit from a high school student who says it was unconstitutional for school officials to hand out T-shirts promoting the Republican during a state Capitol field trip.

According to the 10-page federal lawsuit, the Wayne County High School student — identified as John Doe— accuses Rep. David Byrd of Waynesboro and the Wayne County school district of violating his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

In October, Byrd hosted a “Senior Day on the Hill” for high school seniors. A voice message was sent out to families telling students to pick up shirts promoting Byrd and change before boarding school buses.

Three women have accused Byrd of sexual misconduct when he was their high school basketball coach decades ago.

“The students were not permitted to decline to wear the shirts,” the lawsuit says. “This is compelled and/or school sponsored speech and is unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”

Byrd did not immediately return a phone message request for comment.

But GOP House Majority Leader Glen Casada, who has been looking to shore up support for his House speaker bid, blasted the lawsuit. Casada backed Byrd’s re-election, which attracted a failed push by national interests to try to defeat him in the heavily Republican district, including a political action committee created by the Enough is Enough Project to raise awareness about the campaign.

“Representative Byrd was just re-elected by a landslide margin in his district, receiving nearly 80% of the total vote,” Casada said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this lawsuit is the latest example of a sad and desperate attempt by Democrats to attack the character of a good man that fully and faithfully represents his community in the legislature.”

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