These Schools Banned Trump Gear—Unless They Didn’t


Over the past year, numerous outlets have reported on students who wore Donald Trump-branded clothes and hats to school and were asked to remove it—or just sent home. But a closer look shows the story to be more complicated—a mess of politics, publicity, and schoolkid emotions. What happens when a Make America Great Again hat hits homeroom?

WARNING: Some viewers will find this video disturbing,” a disclaimer above the clip reads. Press play and you’re on a school bus in Chesterfield, Missouri with Parkway West Middle School student Gavin Cortina. A female student is screaming, “You want to build a f**k-freaking wall!?” Cortina, wearing his bright red Make America Great Again hat, yells back, “What’s wrong with building a wall to keep illegal immigrants out of our country?” Then he was “violently assaulted by the young indoctrinated leftist students,” one report reads. Cortina, various outlets reported, is ” pummeled” with punches by his peers who “gang up,” and corner him. “Want to know the even more disgusting part? After he was beaten up, the school suspended Gavin Cortina,” the Conservative Tribune writes. “SUSPENDED for wearing Trump hat,” the headlines read. The narrative was fully formed: a 12-year-old student assaulted for his right-wing beliefs.

At least that’s how it was reported by conservative news sites like The Gateway Pundit, The Blaze, The Daily Wire, The Conservative Tribune, The Right Scoop, Breitbart and Fox News.

In conversations with the school and Gavin’s mother Christina, I learned the story was a lot more tame. According to their accounts, the argument between Gavin and the other students began before they got on the bus. It didn’t start with politics—but after it went in that direction, Cortina put on the pro-Trump cap. A student flicked the bill of the hat and Gavin responded by pushing him in the back, according to a statement released by the school. There wasn’t a violent assault. No one was pummelled. As seen on the video, a brief altercation ensued between Gavin and a student wearing what appears to be a Vineyard Vines shirt and a puka shell necklace. Gavin’s mother Christina Cortina tells me over the phone that the school’s statement is correct—except that the hat was really flicked off by a student smacking her son in the back of the head. Three students in total, including Gavin, were suspended for fighting—not for the hat. A mediation process would follow.

Christina Cortina pointed to the incident as proof that “hypocrisy runs deep” during an appearance on The Allman Report, a show on ABC’s St. Louis affiliate. “It’s not even just the far left, it’s everyone: it’s liberals, it’s the far left, it’s the left in general — hypocrisy just runs so deep it’s sick.” She went into more detail on an Instagram post, where she wrote: “This is what some of you so-called ‘loving’ and ‘tolerant’ liberals have allowed and promoted.”

Trump and his supporters have pegged the news media as the “enemy of the American people,” while members of his administration wage war against each other using outlets like the New Yorker. Outspoken figures like Tomi Lahren and Alex Jones bemoan the media as a vehicle for liberal ideas—and paint paint outlets like InfoWars as guardians of the truth. Emerging is a group of Trump-loving students and parents, like Gavin and Christina Cortina, who understand how to wield their stories to demonstrate how toxic liberal ideals really are. Conservative sites are all too happy to provide coverage, flinging these figures to fringe alt-right fame in the process.

On a number of conservative blogs, both son and mother Cortina instantly became a symbol of the left’s hypocritical tolerance for censorship and violence as long as they’re used to confront conservative, Trumpian ideologies. Christina appeared on local news programs with a mission to spotlight liberal hypocrisy and prove that Trump’s supporters “aren’t just a bunch of white supremacists, bigot, sexist, hoosier douchebags from the midwest.” She absorbed abuse from commenters on some sites, but also admits that her public profile has been burnished by all the press post-Gavin’s incident. “That’s absolutely been a side effect of it,” she says. “It’s really helped me understand—I know it sounds cheesy—but that I have a voice.”

Since the incident, she’s joined a group called Right Side News as a contributor was a nominee in Hotties for Trump’s “March Madmad Tournament 2017.” Cortina’s case isn’t unique, though: there are a number of students across conservative media who have allegedly worn Trump gear, suffered for it, and been held up as examples of the left’s ruthlessness. And while Cortina has benefited from the ordeal, she isn’t happy with how her story was told across the spectrum—and she’s taken issue with conservative sites as well. “Everybody just lies to fit their own narrative,” she says, seemingly unaware that the same charge could be leveled at her.

Inspired by a trove of stories about bans and stern suggestions to students that they leave their MAGA gear at home, I initially set out to explore how campuses are dealing with Trump apparel on school grounds. Gavin Cortina was allegedly beaten up for wearing a Trump hat; at one New Jersey high school, Trump slogans were reportedly photoshopped out of the yearbook.

I wanted to know: Do schools genuinely need to forbid their students from wearing Trump paraphernalia? And just as schools have struggled to police students who are bullying others using Trump’s words, how are administrations dealing with verbal and physical altercations provoked by conservative viewpoints? Where does a school’s need for a peaceful learning environment end and the potential for censorship begin? Even The Daily Wire, the site founded by former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro, can potentially see “parents [complaining] that pro-Trump apparel constitutes hate speech.”

The answer wasn’t as simple as finding banned Trump gear, though, because, in speaking to a number of schools, students, parents, and administrators, I didn’t find a school that outright barred it from campus, despite what many conservative sites have reported. Instead, I discovered people and media outlets speaking out on the subject in ways that seem to align with their preferred narratives.

Connor Mullen, who wore Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again hat to South Portland High School, was aware of how his situation could be weaponized. Starting in April 2016, Mullen was teased by classmates; a teacher reportedly said to him, “Thank God you can’t vote.” Mullen tells me that fellow students call him racist and accuse him of hating immigrants. The school’s administration suggested, according to him, that he ditch the hat if he wants the bullying to end, but Mullen still wears it. When I ask him if there’s something he wishes the school would do, he says, “Not push the liberal agenda.”

Armed with his story, Mullen reached out to the Trump campaign after the original incident. His reasoning echoes the Cortinas’. “I thought it would help because it shows that the ‘pro’ free speech people were trying to shut mine down,” he says.

In late 2015, a high school banned Trump gear from a football game because it could be interpreted as “offensive” or “racist,” according to Breitbart, echoing language in a student-run newspaper. The story was picked up on The Blaze, Daily Caller, and Gateway Pundit added a “WOW!” in its headline. The story even crawled all the way up to Fox News, which—along with every one of those outlets, but for Breitbart which claims it unsuccessfully reached out—apparently didn’t corroborate the report before publishing. (Fox News did not return a request for comment.) But none of them reported what I learned after calling Corona del Sol High School: the school’s official comment is that nothing was, or has been, forbidden. When I called the school, the woman who answered the phone laughed at me when I asked if there was any truth to the story. “Of course” there’s no rule about Trump apparel, she said. The faulty info about banned Trump apparel originated in an op-ed in the student-run newspaper. It’s since been deleted from the paper’s site.

In the summer of 2016, nine-year-old Logan Autry was allegedly banned from wearing a Trump hat to his Fresno, California elementary school. After attending a Trump rally, Autry wore it to school three days in a row until he was asked to remove the hat. Autry started making the rounds—a local station in Columbus, Ohio, ABC30, NBC11, and eventually ended up on the national NBC News site and the New York Post—and invoked the constitution. “The First Amendment says I can wear my hat,” he told NBC4i Columbus, WCMH-TV. His story blew up to such a degree that Trump reportedly sent Autry another signed hat after a dog used the original as a chew toy.

The story according to the school, though, is that Autry was briefly asked to remove that hat because it was causing a disruption. “However, to be clear, school officials never imposed an outright ban,” Fresno Unified School District’s superintendent Michael Hanson told the Los Angeles Times. “School officials reached out multiple times to the guardians to inform them that the student could continue to wear the hat as long there were no further incidents of disruption,” a school statement reads. “However, the guardians have not responded.” Autry’s family, however, says that administrators never reached out about the hat.

Incorrect or incomplete original stories clouding out corrections isn’t unusual, though. In the case of Parkway’s Gavin Cortina, misinformation quickly spread way beyond Chesterfield, Missouri and became a galvanizing force for those on Cortina’s side. The district was inundated with calls from people screaming profanely into the phone about how it bungled the aftermath of the fight on the bus. A representative for the school tells me that almost none of the calls were actually coming from the Missouri area, but instead from places all over the country.

The facts here can stand in the way of anything worth getting riled up about. Even the most severe instances are limited in scope: in most cases, students, parents, and administrators agree that Trump gear can stay at home for a brief period of time. When I ask Christina Cortina about the severity of the fight, she says that if the kids were brawling over something other than politics, like a girl, maybe, “it wouldn’t have been a big deal,” she says. “I would have been like, ‘Suck it up, bro.'”

Free speech has always had its limitations—and determining what’s allowed gets even thornier when it’s done on a school campus. Even in cases where students were asked not to wear Trump gear, it’s possible their schools are in the clear: it’s legal to prevent students from wearing something if it’s proven to be a disruption.

Henry R. Kaufman, a First Amendment lawyer who’s done work in the educational field, says that while it would be very hard for the courts to entertain the concept that the President is so disruptive his apparel needs to be banned, he could see it happening. “Wearing Trump clothes could be disruptive in particular environments,” says Kaufman when I ask if the clothing could pose a problem in places like California or the south of Texas given Trump’s deportation policies. But historically, disruption has been a tricky standard to meet. The United States Supreme Court ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District(1969), the landmark case for free speech at schools, says that “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

These more recent cases will likely never sniff Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s robe, though. Most of the ones I encountered in the media involve either a suspected lone wolf—like the New Jersey high school’s Photoshopgate, which resulted in the suspension of the teacher who advised the yearbook class—or kids getting teased for wearing something Trump-related and then being asked to remove it because it’s caused a distraction. These confrontations are distressing, but they aren’t proof of a large-scale conspiracy by schools to brainwash children with liberal values. Even a teacher (who wished to remain anonymous) who works at a school that made local headlines in Virginia for the way a student wearing Trump apparel was allegedly “mistreated” said she herself hasn’t witnessed any students dressed this way. However, she did write back to say she’s heard students talking about how they’d seen instances of students saying racist things to black and Latinx students after the election.

Raquel Hernandez, who worked as a fifth grade math teacher at the predominately Latinx Stand Watie Elementary School in Trump-leaning state Oklahoma, says that she also didn’t see much Trump apparel on campus. Instead, according to Hernandez, it was mostly teachers who stickered their cars with Trump endorsements and made off-color comments to students about issues like abortion. “Too many of you people use it as a form of birth control,” Hernandez recalls a teacher telling a student. And in Georgia, a third grade teacher who asked to remain anonymous, says she’s never seen students wearing political apparel. “Although they do repeat their parents’ political opinions,” she says.

Many students’ everyday lives aren’t affected by politics. An elementary schooler in Massachusetts who has a Trump supporter in her class says it wasn’t really a big deal. She says that while a kid with a Trump shirt did spark lunchroom debates and a new seating arrangement where MAGA kids occasionally sat at a separate table, things always fell back into place without any residual hurt feelings. “People kept friends,” Elizabeth says. “They’d talk about it and then maybe they’d sit at different lunch tables and then they’d be back to being best friends again.” She also says that most of the Trump supporters didn’t have much to say about Trump beyond calling him great, and probably supported him “because their parents liked him.”

It’s important to let kids express themselves at school when it doesn’t cause other people harm, but it’s just as important for outlets to report the full story. Think back to Gavin Cortina’s fight on the Parkway bus: before it was reported as the latest battle in the culture wars, Gavin’s mother explains, the fight actually started because Gavin told a classmate to stop talking about her personal politics. “My son was like, ‘That’s kind of inappropriate conversation,'” says Christina. She would spend the next days on television defending her son’s freedom of speech and right to express himself.


6 Features of the Uber App for Drivers You Didn’t Know About

6 Features of the Uber App for Drivers You Didn't Know About6 Features of the Uber App for Drivers You Didn’t Know About
Uber app lets drivers accept nearby requests during an ongoing trip
Twice a day, the app gives drivers the riders who are going the same way
The app lets drivers go offline temporarily if they want to take breaks
Most Uber users are quite familiar with the features the app offers, such as fare-splitting, ordering a ride for someone else, checking their own rating, etc. But what about the Uber app for drivers? The app used by Uber drivers is markedly different from the consumer version and has a bunch of features that most people are unaware of. Here’s a look at 6 features you probably didn’t know the Uber app for drivers has.

(Also see: 5 Interesting Things You Didn’t Know About Uber)

1. Driver Destinations

How many times has it happened to you that you booked an Uber but the driver refused to go to your destination because it wasn’t on a route that he wanted to go on? Taking cognisance of the problem, Uber India has introduced the Driver Destinations feature that allows drivers to choose the destinations they want to take. This feature can be used only up to twice a day; an Uber product manager told Gadgets 360 that the drivers use this feature most at the end of their work-day.

The company’s algorithm ensures that drivers using this option are matched only to riders who are going on the same route as they are. According to Uber, this “helps reduce driver cancellations and unavailability” on the platform.

2. Forward Dispatch

The Forward Dispatch feature comes into play when a rider tries to book a ride and the closest available driver is farther away compared to a driver who is about to end an ongoing trip. For example, Uber’s algorithm will match you to a driver who is 5 minutes away and about to end an ongoing trip rather than an available driver who is, say, 12 minutes away.

Uber’s Forward Dispatch feature essentially ensures that a driver who close to your pickup point is matched to you rather than an available driver farther away. The ride-sharing company says this helps reduce idle time for drivers and ensures that riders get a cab at the earliest.
3. Pause Requests

In order to give drivers on its platform some respite from continuous trips, Uber introduced the Pause Requests feature that, as the name suggests, takes them offline for a short duration. Drivers can choose to go offline anytime while on the road to have their lunch or refuel the cab. Uber says the company keeps track of drivers who take too many breaks and removes Pause Requests from the driver app for some time in order to ensure the feature is not abused.

4. Heat maps

The Uber app for drivers shows users a heat map of areas with high demand for cabs, so that they can head to the location with the most chance of getting a rider. This way, drivers have less waiting time for a trip as well as less fuel is wasted, and it ultimately helps customers in that region too, as it will increase their chances of getting a cab.

5. Daily reports

The Uber app sends daily reports to drivers about how their driving patterns compare to other drivers in their city, providing details such as number of trips taken. It also provides suggestions on how they can provide a smoother ride to customers. The app also sends periodic reminders about the importance of taking breaks, alerts them when they cross the speed limit, and gives stats showing their acceleration-braking behaviour.

6. Auto-pilot

The Auto-pilot feature gives drivers the option to let the Uber app automatically accept their next trip (via UberPool or Forward Dispatch) so that they are not distracted while driving.

Tags: Uber, Uber India, Uber app, Uber app for drivers, Uber cabs


Facebook Is Pushing More People to an App They Didn’t Choose

Facebook Is Pushing More People to an App They Didn't Choose

Facebook is once again getting pushy about how people message one another.

Two years ago, the social-media giant forced its users to adopt its Messenger app for direct communication, a change it enforced by deactivating messages in the main Facebook app and steering users to the app. There was an uproar ; some users thought Messenger violated their privacy, while others just resented having to add yet another app.

Still, the plan worked; more than 900 million people use the app, roughly four times the number in 2014. But some continued to resist, exploiting a loophole to avoid Messenger. All they had to do was log into Facebook’s mobile website using a smartphone browser like Safari or Chrome.

Now Facebook is coming after those holdouts. In some markets, the company has already blocked mobile browser access to messages on Android phones. In others, opening messages on Facebook’s mobile website gets you a warning that “your conversations are moving to Messenger” and a link to download the app. The company will extend the ban to all markets and to iPhone users in the upcoming months, it says.

Facebook insists it only wants “to bring the best experiences we can” to users. The Messenger app provides more reliable notifications about incoming messages and runs more quickly, the company says.

More free stuff, less control
This might not seem like a big deal to many users, particularly anyone who’s long since made their peace with Messenger. But it’s emblematic of a central dilemma in the modern age: We have free – as in unpaid – access to an ever-expanding array of software and services, but less and less control over how we use them.

That rankles people who have no interest in Messenger. Michael Kampfer, a St. Paul, Minnesota, construction contractor, says he doesn’t have enough storage space on either of his Android phones to install Messenger alongside the other apps that he needs for his job while traveling.

“I have a problem with the company telling me what’s the best experience is for me,” Kampfer, 65, says. “I have a browser on my phone, so why should I be forced to get Messenger?”

Kampfer is far from alone. In the US alone, nearly 149 million people visited Facebook’s website on a smartphone or tablet during April, according to the research firm comScore. The firm doesn’t compile worldwide data for mobile browser traffic.

Business considerations
From a business standpoint, Facebook’s move makes great sense. Planting Messenger on more phones corrals a bigger audience for advertising and other moneymaking opportunities. The company doesn’t comment on such plans, and Messenger is currently ad-free. But analysts think the app could generate billions of dollars in advertising revenue within just a few years.

The Menlo Park, California company is thriving, mostly from ads on its main Facebook app. Its second-quarter revenue soared 59 percent from the same time last year to $6.4 billion, resulting in a $2.06 billion profit, the company announced Wednesday.

Facebook wants more of its users on Messenger because it can gather more personal data and introduce new features that could yield even more revenue, says eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson. She expects ads to start appearing before the end of this year.

Even if some users don’t like that, “Facebook has a way of changing things to make people interact with Facebook the way Facebook wants,” Williamson says.

Facebook executives say Messenger is now moving into “phase two” of its evolution, although they still aren’t ready to say how the company intends to profit from it.

Remote control
Facebook has a long history of pushiness. A decade ago, it began circulating the status updates that users posted on their personal pages throughout the social network. The concept, known as a “news feed,” is now the foundation of modern Facebook, even though it initially triggered protests about exposing too much personal information.

Kevina Cromwell of Philadelphia already tried the Messenger app and didn’t like it. So she uninstalled it and the Facebook app a couple of years ago, and read her private messages on her on her phone’s mobile web browser until the company started blocking her recently.

“It’s really annoying,” Cromwell, 22, says. “I see what they are trying to do, but I still don’t understand why they are tying your hands and not giving you any options at all.”

Future of Messenger
Messaging is huge in the tech industry now; Google and Apple are pouring resources into their own apps to ensure their services remain a vital part of people’s lives. A few years ago, Facebook also paid $21.8 billion for the WhatsApp messaging service, which has more than a billion users. So far, it remains entirely separate from Messenger.

Facebook keeps spiffing up the Messenger app. Its latest look, which is still rolling out to users, now shows friends’ birthdays, lists of favorite people and a thumbnail of who’s online at any given moment. Facebook is also promoting the app as a way for merchants to interact with their customers, which could transform the service into a sort of digital call center.

Some Android phone owners say Facebook has gotten so aggressive about Messenger that visiting the mobile website for their texts now takes them directly to an app-download page, with no explanation why they were sent there. “It’s almost like they’re trying to trick you,” says Jeni Tehan, who lives in Brighton, England.

People who still want to shun Messenger can still send and receive messages via the Facebook site, though only if they’re on a full-fledged computer, not a phone or tablet. It’s small consolation for some.

“The users are the product, not the customer, which I’m generally resigned to because of the usefulness of the service,” Mel Campbell of Melbourne, Australia, says by email. “But I’m not going to cave to every single bad decision the company wants to push on us.”

Tags: Apps, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Messenger, Social

5 Cool Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do on Facebook Messenger

5 Cool Things You Didn't Know You Could Do on Facebook Messenger


  • Messenger lets you chat in groups, make video calls
  • You can send and request money via the app
  • Play games on Messenger, cool isn’t it?

You’d be wrong to think that Facebook’s Messenger app is all about messaging.

Although people typically install it on their phones to chat privately with their Facebook friends, Facebook also uses Messenger to bring features and capabilities that might not make sense, or even be possible, as part of the main Facebook service. And of course, a separate app gives Facebook even more advertising and other moneymaking opportunities.

For that reason, Facebook is pushing users to download the app, even though it takes up valuable storage on the phone. The company recently started blocking access to Facebook messages from mobile web browsers on Android phones in some markets. The ban will extend to iPhones as well, though Facebook isn’t saying when.

Before you complain, consider what a separate Messenger app offers beyond simply typing words and sending emoji back and forth:

1. Group chats
Messenger lets you easily add friends to group chats so you can make dinner or travel plans or just talk about your day. Although this is also possible using your browser, it’s more convenient with the app. If kicking people off mobile browser messaging is the stick to prod people toward the app, the convenience of Messenger is the carrot to lure users.

messenger_1_groups.jpgTapping the “groups” icon at the bottom of the screen will take you to existing group chats and let you start new ones. You can add people to group chats at any time, or leave the group. If you have an often-used group chat, you can also “pin” it to the top of your messages to make it easily accessible.

2. Bots
Who wants to chat with people when you can chat with … bots? Well, most of us, but bear with me here.

Since April, Facebook has let outside businesses create “chat bots” that can send you the news or weather, help you shop for shoes or book plane tickets and hotel rooms. You send a message to a brand’s bot just as you would a friend; the difference is that the reply is automated through software. The results can be clumsy, as expected for such a new venture.

(Also see:  Five Facebook Messenger Bots You Absolutely Need to Try)

But bots can be helpful. Expedia, for example, lets you search for hotels and book them by messaging with its bot. Start by telling the bot where you are going and when. After some back and forth, the bot will give you hotel options. To book, the bot will take you to Expedia’s website.

messenger_pokemongo_bot.jpgThis is just the start. Perhaps one day, the bot will be more useful by letting you book directly through Messenger. David Marcus, Facebook’s head of messaging products, has called bots “overhyped in the short term and underhyped in the long term.”

3. Send or request money
Using your debit card, you can send money to your Facebook friends using Messenger – as long as they also have their card number attached to their Facebook account. You can also request money, in case your friends forgot to pay you for those movie tickets and aren’t answering their email. To use the payments option, select the person you want money from and tap “payments.” There are no extra fees to send or receive payments, but you must use a debit card – not a credit card.

messenger_money_us.jpg4. Video calls
Your mom isn’t on Skype? FaceTime isn’t cutting it because your friend has Android?

Messenger offers yet another way to do video calls on your phone. It’s free over a Wi-Fi connection. If you use cellular, you might get charged for data by your phone company.

messenger_video_calls.jpg5. Play games
How about some soccer – or football, as it’s known in most of the world? Select a friend to play with. Then, select Messenger’s emoji keyboard by tapping on the emoji icon on the left side of your message window, right above the keyboard. Tap the soccer ball icon and send it to your friend. Then, tap the ball with your finger and keep tapping it so it stays in the “air.”

During a recent, frustrating attempt, I had a high score of just two – though that’s still one more than what Portugal scored to win the Euro Cup this year.

Tags: Apps, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Messenger, Social