US Court: Teacher’s MAGA Hat is Protected Speech

A US appeals court found that Eric Dodge, a teacher in Washington state, had his First Amendment rights violated when a principal asked him not to wear a “Make America Great Again” hat — a reference to former Pres. Trump's slogan — to school.

US Court: Teacher’s MAGA Hat is Protected Speech
Image credit: fox

Facts

  • A US appeals court found that Eric Dodge, a teacher in Washington state, had his First Amendment rights violated when a principal asked him not to wear a “Make America Great Again” hat — a reference to former Pres. Trump's slogan — to school.
  • In its Dec. 29 ruling, the court found that Dodge was conveying a message as a private citizen when he wore the hat at Wy’east Middle School and, despite an adverse reaction from some of his colleagues, didn't cause a “tangible disruption” to school activities.
  • In the court’s written opinion, Judge Danielle J. Forrest explained that Dodge’s colleagues’ disagreement with the political message symbolized by the hat could not “outweigh” his First Amendment rights.
  • According to court records, Dodge wore the hat to a training session at the school in August 2019 but took it off upon entering the building. Principal Caroline Garrett fielded some complaints from other teachers and asked him to use “better judgment.”
  • Dodge alleged that after he wore the hat a second time, Garrett called him a “racist” and a “homophobe.” Garrett denied verbally attacking Dodge.
  • Dodge’s harassment complaint against Garrett was dismissed by the district, but Garrett eventually resigned after an investigation into her actions. The appeals panel has since ruled Dodge can’t sue the school district.

Sources: Columbian, Associated Press, Upi, and Reuters.

Narratives

  • Pro-Trump narrative, as provided by NewsMAX. The only disruption at this school came from Dodge’s colleagues. Former Pres. Trump conjured up “Make America Great” as a patriotic message, and while others are free to oppose it or interpret it how they like, they have no right to stifle Dodge’s Constitutional right to free speech.
  • Democratic narrative, as provided by CNN. There’s much more meaning under the surface to the “Make America Great Again” slogan than Trump supporters will admit, and it's indisputable that it insults a large number of the population. While there may be a First Amendment right to wear the hat, there’s also a right to be offended by it and simply request it not be worn in a public workspace.