Judge allows T-shirt lawsuit involving lawmaker to continue

Published 8:08 am Friday, March 20, 2020

NASHVILLE (AP) — A federal judge is allowing a lawsuit to proceed to trial, filed by a student alleging school officials wrongly distributed T-shirts promoting a Republican lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct.

The shirts were for a state Capitol field trip. Rep. David Byrd’s attorneys had argued the student didn’t attend the field trip, and therefore the case should be dismissed because the student wasn’t forced to wear the shirt.

U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson disagreed. On Wednesday, Richardson said Byrd’s arguments weren’t sufficient.

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“Plaintiff’s allegations of emotional injury, and of exclusion from his senior class trip, are sufficient to satisfy the first element of standing,” Richardson wrote.

Byrd hosted a “Senior Day on the Hill” for high school seniors in October 2018. A voice message was sent to families telling students to get shirts promoting Byrd and change before boarding school buses.

Shortly after the field trip, a student — who is not named in the lawsuit — filed a complaint against Byrd, claiming First and Fourteenth Amendment violations.

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

Byrd has not outright denied the allegations, but in statements has said he’s truly sorry if he hurt or emotionally upset any of his students and said he has done nothing “wrong or inappropriate” during his time in the Tennessee Statehouse.