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 January 5, 2023

Federal appeals court rules in favor of teacher who wore "Make America Great Again" hat to professional events

A federal appeals court ruled that Eric Dodge, the former teacher who brought a "Make America Great Again" hat to at least two professional events, was within his First Amendment rights, the Washington Examiner reported. Dodge had filed a harassment complaint following the prohibition.

The MAGA hat was a show of support for then-President Donald Trump when the incident occurred during the 2019-2020 school year. Dodge brought his hat and other personal belongings to a cultural sensitivity and racial bias training that was held in the course of his employment at Wy'east Middle School in Washington.

It was a staff-only event, and Dodge had left the hat with his personal belongings where others could see. According to legal documents, some of his co-workers felt "threatened" and "intimidated" just from the presence of the headwear, Fox News reported.

Afterward, Principal Caroline Garrett scolded Dodge and told him to rethink his hat choice in the future. However, Dodge brought the hat to yet another training.

It was then that Dodge claims Garrett and other colleagues "verbally attacked" attacked him over the presence of the hat. The 17-year veteran teacher subsequently filed a complaint against the principal, the Evergreen Public Schools district, and its human resources representative, Janae Gomes.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District ruled in favor of Dodge on Dec. 29 because it believed that the district didn't show "tangible disruption" to school business that would warrant a restriction of Dodge's free speech.

The court also found that since Dodge never wore the hat in the classroom or around students, it was a point of personal expression and not representative of the school. Moreover, Dodge's attorneys asserted that "no general prohibition on political speech" existed when Garrett had admonished him.

It also came to light that the principal permitted a Black Lives Matter banner to be hung in the school's library. Garrett's vehicle had a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker, suggesting this was a one-sided rule.

Ultimately, the three-panel judge agreed with Dodge's side of the case. "While some of the training attendees may have been outraged or offended by Dodge's political expression, no evidence of actual or tangible disruption to school operations has been presented," Judge Danielle J. Forrest, a Trump appointee, said in her opinion.

"Political speech is the quintessential example of protected speech, and it is inherently controversial," the judge added. Forrest also noted that "concern over the reaction to controversial or disfavored speech itself does not justify restricting such speech."

The court also noted that neither the school district nor Gomes acted improperly. Dodge resigned from his position in 2020, but attorneys on all sides claimed their clients were happy with the ruling.

It's no surprise that Dodge was targeted for possessing his MAGA hat. Because of the left's hysterical rhetoric and their accomplices in the media, many false narratives were projected onto people who showed their support for Trump with the red hats.

The mere presence of one on a teenager's head was enough to entice news outlets into defaming him. Another red hat used as a prop in a hate crime hoax against a black actor also points to the triggering power of the hat.

Americans treasure free speech rights that are the envy of the world. However, the left would rather restrict those rights than see a single MAGA hat -- but that kind of objection is exactly what the First Amendment was made for.

Written By:
Christine Favocci

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