Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with additional details about claims made in the school district’s statement and Jennifer Farris' response.
GILBERT, Ariz. - Perry High School administrators in Gilbert are at odds with some students’ parents over an incident Friday in which a student and her mother were told to leave the campus. The mother and daughter say they were told to leave because they were sporting pro-Trump apparel, but the school says they were causing a disruption.
The girl was among a group of students who brought a flag supporting Donald Trump to the school Friday for “Party in the USA Day” during the school’s spirit week.
The flag spurred an argument between two groups of students, the school says, so officials told the students to put it away. They did, but when the school day ended, they brought the flag back out and displayed it. A school resource officer told them to leave campus or be sent to the principal.
“They said that we were using the flag wrong,” student Tori Farris said.
Farris called her mother from Principal Dan Serrano’s office, and her mother, Jennifer Farris, came to the school. Jennifer Farris filmed her interaction with administrators as she challenged the decision to have the students stop displaying the flag. During that exchange, Serrano directed her to leave campus.
“Ma’am, I’m not going to put up with this stuff,” Serrano is heard saying in the video.
“I’m not going to put up with it, either,” Jennifer Farris responds. “You’re not able to tell my daughter to leave the school.”
Serrano replies: “As a principal, yes I can.”
Jennifer and Tori Farris maintain that the school targeted them for their support for the president, but the Chandler Unified School District said in an email Monday that its only aim was to de-escalate a verbal altercation. The email also says that Jennifer Farris cursed and yelled in the administrative office, and that is the reason why she was directed to leave the school grounds.
Jennifer Farris disputed the part of the school’s statement that claims she “screamed, yelled and used profanity, including the "F" word in the presence of students and staff,” and that’s why she was asked to leave.
She provided 12 News an extended version of the video that was first posted online. The second version shows her exiting her car, walking into the office, and her initial interactions with students and staff in the office. 12 News watched the video and at no point heard screaming or cursing.
When 12 News reached out to the school district to clarify its statement about the cursing, the spokesperson replied, “The district considers the matter closed and has no further comment.”
Jennifer Farris didn’t give permission to 12 News to publish the extended version of the video, saying she wanted to protect the identities of students in the video.
This is far from Jennifer Farris's first controversy with the district. A video of middle school students from San Tan Junior High yelling racial slurs from a song, "F*** All N*****s," was taken at her house in January 2018.
At the time, she declined our request for an interview.
"Ummm, yeah it was [at our house]. There was a party that the kids had and there was some stuff that went on, but the way that all got twisted around and portrayed was definitely not – we didn't agree with how it happened because it got twisted around and made me realize the media only tells one side of the story," Jennifer Farris said.
But this time, Jennifer Farris sought out the news media. She shared a news article with a post calling for the principal to be fired. That post has either since been deleted or Jennifer Farris changed her privacy settings.
"You are calling for the firing of the principal, is that correct?" I asked Jennifer Farris.
"No, sir, I simply wanted an apology for what happened," she said.
"You didn't post on Facebook that he should be fired?" I asked.
"I think I was very angry when I posted that, and since then, if you look at the majority of my posts, I'm not looking for that," Jennifer Farris said.
About 40 people – mostly parents – gathered Monday across the street from the Gilbert school to protest the school’s decision and display support for President Trump.
Tori Farris said one of her friends was suspended for 10 days as a result of the altercation. The school has not confirmed any suspension.
Republicans in the Arizona House of Representatives are now asking the state's attorney general to investigate possible violations of free speech.
Here is the full email from the district:
We have had more requests from media than we can address one at a time. So we are sending this updated statement this afternoon.
*Students were not asked to put away Trump gear. The Administration only asked that the banner be put away when the students engaged in a verbal altercation and the administration was concerned that it would escalate.
*When the parent at issue arrived at the Perry High School office, she screamed, yelled and used profanity, including the "F" word in the presence of students and staff. Her conduct did not meet expectations for public conduct on school property, as set forth in Policy KFA, "Public Conduct on School Property" and otherwise.
*When the parent would not cease her screaming, yelling and cursing, Mr. Serrano asked her to leave. She refused to do so. At that point, Mr. Serrano told the parent that he was trespassing her, which meant that he was directing her (rather than requesting her) to leave the campus. He did not tell her that she was trespassing when she arrived at the school.
*Governing Board Policy JICA, "Student Dress" pertains to student dress. Governing Board Policy JIC, "Student Conduct" addresses student conduct. Neither Policy directly addresses political attire. The District adheres to constitutional principles and prevailing case law when addressing student attire.
*Governing Board Policy JICD, "Student Conduct In School (Student Speech)" and related Administrative Regulation JICD-R address student speech in the schools. While the District does not have a Governing Board Policy or Administrative Regulation that addresses bringing flags or banners to school, it would apply other Policies and Administrative Regulations (such as Policy JICA, JIC, JICD or other Policies such as JICK, Student Harassment/Intimidation/Bullying) or Policy JK, "Student Discipline" to situations that involve students bringing flags or banners to school.
*As has been previously shared, no student has been disciplined for wearing Trump or Trump related clothing or for expressing their political views. Under federal and state laws, as well as the District's Governing Board Policies, Administrative Regulations and the rules set forth in the Student Handbook, students may be lawfully expected to:
-Refrain from conduct that causes or is likely to cause a material and substantial disruption or interference with the orderly operation of the school or school activities.
-Comply with the lawful directions of District officials or any other law enforcement officers acting in performance of their duties, and to identify themselves to such officials or officers when lawfully requested to do so.
*While the District is not able to share more specific information about specific students due to privacy laws that make such disclosure unlawful, it believes that it acted in accordance with applicable laws and its own Policies, Regulations and rules in the handling of this matter.
We will be communicating directly with students and their parents on a personal basis as needed to try to address individual family concerns.