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'What is the f***ing deal with you and your hat?': In federal lawsuit former teacher alleges principal bullied him, denied his civil rights over MAGA hat

Eric Dodge also claims his principal at the time berated him as a 'racist,' 'bigot,' 'homophobe,' 'liar,' and 'hateful person'

Photo by David Cliff/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A former teacher from Washington state has filed a federal lawsuit alleging his principal at the time bullied him and denied his civil rights over his "Make America Great Again" hat, the iconic symbol of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

What are the details?

Eric Dodge of Washougal named former Wy'east Middle School principal Caroline Garrett and Evergreen Public Schools human resources manager Janae Gomes in the complaint filed in United States District Court, the Columbian reported.

The complaint says 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," the paper said, citing the complaint.

More from the Columbian on last August's turn of events:

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.

Garrett did not respond to a request for comment, and Evergreen Public Schools declined to comment on the specific allegations in the lawsuit. The district does not comment on pending litigation.

Dodge suffered a stroke in 2017 and took a leave of absence, the paper said, adding that he was assigned to teach science for the 2019-2020 school year, which was a new position for him after 17 years in the school district.

The lawsuit states Dodge bought a MAGA hat as a "conversation-starter, with the idea of explaining that ordinary and normal people support Trump, despite some of Trump's flaws" and to protect his head from the sun, the Columbian said. On Aug. 22, Dodge arrived for racial equity training at the school and donned his MAGA hat on his way into the building and then removed it once he entered, the paper said.

Several teachers expressed concerns about Dodge bringing the hat to school — particularly to cultural diversity training — and noted that the school's Hispanic students might feel uncomfortable if Dodge wore the hat in class, the Columbian said, citing an investigation by Clear Risk Solutions, which the district uses for risk management services.

After the training session, Garrett allegedly asked Dodge about the hat, saying she wasn't concerned about his politics but about "the impact he was having on the learning environment of his colleagues," some of whom felt "worried, upset, threatened, and intimidated," the paper said, adding that she asked him to use "good judgment" regarding the MAGA hat and then left.

The investigation and lawsuit indicated the next day Dodge left his hat in his car when he went to Wy'east, the Columbian reported, but he wore the hat later in the day in the parking lot on his way to a training session at Evergreen High School.

According to the investigation, a teacher texted Garrett about Dodge's MAGA hat, and then she confronted him, the paper said.

'What is the f***ing deal with you and your hat?'

Dodge alleged Garrett became "aggressive and hostile," demanding to know "what is the f***ing deal with you and your hat?" the Columbian reported, adding that Dodge also claimed she berated him as a "racist," "bigot," "homophobe," "liar," and "hateful person."

"She attacked me and wanted to ruin my reputation at this new school, even though she had just met me and didn't know the first thing about me," Dodge said in reference to Garrett, according to Clark County Today.

But Garrett told investigators she simply noted to Dodge that other teachers were "offended, worried, and confused," and that she didn't want to see him wearing his MAGA hat any longer, the paper said. Garrett also denied calling Dodge a racist or a bigot and said she didn't remember raising her voice during the conversation, the Columbian added.

Dodge also alleged that his human resources complaint about the incident was handled in a "biased and unfair manner," the paper reported, adding that Dodge said the district asked him to withdraw the complaint but that he refused. The district then turned over the complaint to Clear Risk, the Columbian said.

More from the paper:

Investigators found that Dodge did not violate district policy by wearing the hat, and also found that Garrett's actions did not violate the district's harassment, bullying and intimidation policy. Dodge appealed the complaint to the district's board of directors.

The school board, again, found no violation of district policy, but asked Garrett to attend the next school board meeting to answer "outstanding questions about whether you conducted yourself in an appropriate or professional manner," according to a letter the district sent to Garrett.

At its Dec. 10 meeting, the school board met in executive session to discuss the performance of a public employee, an allowed exemption from the Open Public Meetings Act. Ten days later, Garrett, who was hired by the district in 2010, resigned effective April 2, but left her job immediately and took all her accrued vacation and sick leave leading up to the April resignation date, according to district records.

Garrett also received severance equal to her salary from April 2 through June 30. According to the district's salary schedule for principals, Garrett's base annual salary was $150,170.

Dodge is seeking lost wages and emotional damages, the Columbian said, adding that one of his attorneys, Michael Estok, described the events as "textbook violations" of harassment, intimidation, and bullying policies. Dodge also is seeking a declaration that defendants have committed the "above violations of plaintiff's civil rights," the Clark County Today noted.

Anything else?

Estok also stated that "this attack was particularly devastating because Mr. Dodge had just returned to working after an absence to rehabilitate from a stroke. The hostile environment created by the principal caused his previously-resolved stroke symptoms to immediately return. These symptoms — including a verbal stutter and a loss in coordination — have now made Mr. Dodge unable to teach or continue his livelihood. Even worse, when Mr. Dodge filed an internal complaint, the principal — who had a well-established practice of pushing her own political ideology at the school and creating a double standard with her staff based on their political beliefs — worked in concert with the district's HR director to minimize and distort what had happened, in an effort to protect the principal's position and to further harm Mr. Dodge," the Clark County Today reported.

More from Estok:

"Ultimately, this is not a case about politics. Regardless of which candidate or party you might support, the key point is that you have a right to support them. You should not be shut out of public service simply because your boss supports someone else. This case is also about civility. People need to 'agree to disagree' in a civil way, especially in the workplace. Nobody should be attacked, defamed, and humiliated by their boss based solely on their political beliefs, whether conservative or progressive. That's not what America is all about."

As TheBlaze has reported, some leftists lose their minds at the sight of MAGA hats. The red headgear can be particularly problematic at public schools and colleges.

To wit:

... and on, and on, and on.

(H/T: EAG News)

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