MAGA Hat At Center Of Lawsuit For Teacher Seeking Damages

Written by Wes Walker on May 3, 2020

Teacher with 17 years experience, whose chops were busted for wearing a MAGA hat, is suing for harassment,

Dodge, who has been on leave from the district since early in the 2019-2020 school year, is seeking lost wages and emotional damages. One of his attorneys, Michael Estok, described the events as “textbook violations” of harassment, intimidation and bullying policies.

“People who are public employees enjoy certain First Amendment rights,” Estok said. “They shouldn’t be targeted or treated differently because they have certain political viewpoints. That’s what’s going on here.”

Eric Dodge has a lot on his plate already. He was returning to teaching after being away for a while, recovering from having suffered a stroke.

He had a hat with him to wear outdoors, to ‘protect his head from sun damage’. He wears the Trump hat as a conversation starter, showing that even regular people who don’t’ agree with every single thing he says and does can still support the president.

Needless to say, the hat got him in trouble.

Eric Dodge, a former teacher, names former Wy’east Middle School Principal Caroline Garrett and district human resources manager Janae Gomes in the complaint filed in United States District Court. The complaint alleges that Dodge suffered “emotional devastation” and a “recurrence of debilitating stroke symptoms” after being “verbally attacked and defamed by his new principal for the political opinions he held as a private citizen — specifically, statements in support of President Trump,” according to the complaint.

The incident occurred over two days during a series of staff training sessions prior to the beginning of school, including a first-day session on implicit bias, diversity and racial equity, according to district documents. Dodge said in the complaint that he had the cap with him during those sessions but did not “wear or purposefully display” the hat inside either Wy’east or at a different training session the second day at Evergreen High School.

Public records obtained from the school district offer a more detailed timeline of events, including concerns expressed by multiple teachers about the hat, a district investigation that revealed no wrongdoing and, ultimately, Garrett’s resignation from her position at the middle school.

After a complaint and a series of sending his objections up the chain of command, the Principal was investigated. Long story short, she was not found to have harassed Eric Dodge, but she did cash out her vacation and resign.

Dodge’s stroke symptoms came back after that, he says. And that played a role in the lawsuit.