Administration suspends conservative activist club Turning Point USA

Senior+David+Hu+passes+out+TPUSA+posters+at+the+club%E2%80%99s+table+from+the+Club+Fair.

Mattingly Germack

Senior David Hu passes out TPUSA posters at the club’s table from the Club Fair.

Alex Kelly, Webmaster

Burlingame’s chapter of Turning Point USA (TPUSA), a conservative activist group that brings right-wing politics to high school and college campuses, has been suspended. Following confusion amongst members and advisor Timothy Larkin regarding the club’s purpose, Larkin quit his role in the chapter. The club was then suspended by leadership for incompliance with club regulations, according to assistant principal Joshua Knudson. 

“I pulled out of being the advisor for the club, because while I supported the students’ right to expression,” English teacher Larkin said, “after reviewing a lot of materials on the Turning Point organization website, I could not in good conscience support or feel like I was associated with supporting Turning Point.” 

Burlingame is no stranger to political student groups; in fact, the school is generally accepting of them. This year’s options include The Junior State of America Club and the BHS Politics Club. However, there was a different response to TPUSA joining the club lineup than there has been around other political clubs in the past.

At the Club Fair on Tuesday, Sept. 21, TPUSA representatives handed out stickers and posters promoting the club, with messages such as “Kiss Me I’m a Capitalist” and “I’m a Conserve-ative.” Students swarmed the table to get a look at the merchandise from the organization, and many took them as souvenirs to show they had gone to the TPUSA’s table. 

“It was less controlled than I would like, and if I could do it over again, I wish such a crowd didn’t gather and it was more organized,” president and founder of the Burlingame TPUSA chapter David Hu said.

Despite the large number of students who visited the club’s table, many disliked the sentiments. Some students altered the messaging with a Sharpie to contradict the original wording or threw the posters in the trash. 

One of the more controversial items was a sticker with an image of a gun on it. 

“I actually spoke to students about the fact that a federal court in Wisconsin said students cannot wear T-shirts that have guns on them,” history and government teacher Matthew McDermott said. “I thought that decision would be relevant in some of the paraphernalia that was passed out [by TPUSA].”

While free speech is a touchy subject for students across the U.S., as seen in past Supreme Court cases like Tinker v. Des Moines and more recently Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., messaging that can be disruptive or dangerous is not allowed.

The Burlingame Student & Family Handbook states that “The school is responsible for seeing that student attire does not interfere with the health or safety of any student, that student attire does not contribute to a hostile or intimidating atmosphere for any student.” 

Therefore, Burlingame administrators had the authority to prohibit students from wearing or displaying the stickers with guns. This law is also clearly regulated by the state in the California Education Code 48907 (a).

The code states “Also prohibited shall be material that so incites pupils as to create a clear and present danger of the commission of unlawful acts on school premises or the violation of lawful school regulations, or the substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school.”

On Oct. 5, Hu posted on his Instagram story that there would be a TPUSA club meeting in science teacher Christian Balmy’s room the next day. However, this meeting was cancelled as Balmy did not feel comfortable supporting the club. As of now, there is not a future for TPUSA at Burlingame.