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Teacher sues school district after officials fire him for attending Jan. 6 rally — even though he ran the other way when violence and destruction broke out

Photo by Stefan Zaklin/Getty Image

A former Sacramento, California, teacher has sued the Sacramento City Unified School District after it fired him.

The teacher, Dustin Watson, alleged that the district fired him after learning that he attended the rally preceding the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

What are the details?

Watson, a former physical education teacher at New Technology High School, said that he made no bones about attending the rally and never tried to hide the fact.

According to a report from the Sacramento Bee, Watson shared Facebook updates that "described the events taking place as they were unfolding," but that he "did not anticipate the events to take a violent turn."

The suit, obtained by the outlet, reported that Watson left the area "when the disruption began" and never once entered the Capitol building.

Watson's suit seeks relief and damages for loss of pay as well as denial of employment benefits.

A statement from the Sacramento City Unified School District confirmed to the outlet that it placed Watson on administrative leave immediately in January 2021 after learning that he attended the rally. He remained on paid administrative leave until August 2021.

"This employee was probationary and was non-reelected in March 2021," a statement from the district read. "As such, the employee is no longer employed by Sacramento City Unified School District."

An attorney for Watson told the outlet that he believes his client's First Amendment rights were violated.

“You see employees at rallies and events, and employers notice they are there,” Shawn Sasooness of SW Employment Law Group said in a statement on the litigation. “All of a sudden their hours are reduced or they are retaliated against. It’s not incredibly common, but it’s a lot more common in the past few years.”

He added that it's highly questionable that Watson — who never received any disciplinary action prior to his firing — was terminated.

“There is a shortage of teachers and a shortage of people in the school district,“ Sasooness added. “This is a teacher who had great reviews and everybody liked him.”

Watson and his legal team filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California on Monday.

What else?

Watson told Blaze Media on Friday that he has since taken a job teaching in another school district approximately 70 miles south of Sacramento and added that he feels that the school has blacklisted him over his presence in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6.

"I do believe I have been blacklisted, due to the fact I was also dropped from my credential program and denied the chance to finish my teaching credential of which I was four months away from completing," he added.

Watson said that he hopes the district will learn its lesson following the suit.

"The First Amendment is still a part of the Constitution and America," he said. "I hope in the future [the district] will be more inclusive and open-minded before jumping to conclusions by terminating and canceling someone based on a difference of opinion or false narrative."

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