Former school principal Caroline Garrett
Pushback: A federal appeals court last week ruled that Caroline Garrett, the former principal of Wy’east Middle School in Portland, Oregon, does not have immunity from a lawsuit by a teacher, Eric Dodge, whom she threatened to punish for bringing a MAGA hat to several training sessions.
At the first training session with 60 participants, “fewer than five people complained, including the first presenter who was not a District employee,” and all trainings were completed without incident, according to the court records. “Clinton, Reagan, and Trump appointees coming together to affirm the First Amendment,” lawyer Gregory Conley tweeted in response to the ruling, referring to the panel of judges.
According to the court’s official ruling [pdf], Garrett threatened to punish Dodge if he brought the hat into school again:
Dodge alleges that when he approached Principal Garrett she stated: “What is the [%@&*#$%] deal with your hat?” She also called Dodge a “homophobe and a racist and a bigot and hateful.” And when he denied wearing his hat at Wy’east the second day, she called him a “liar” and specified that she did not want him wearing the hat “period.” Finally, Principal Garrett said: “[N]ext time I see you with that hat, you need to have your union rep. Bring your rep because I’ll have mine.”
Principal Garrett disputes that she mistreated Dodge, including by using profanity or raising her voice, but she admits that she was frustrated and viewed Dodge continuing to have his hat with him as “insubordination.”
It appears that there had been other complaints about Garrett from parents, and combined with this case, the school board decided she should resign, which she did at the end of that school year. The dispute also caused Dodge to transfer to another school.
The court’s ruling however now makes Garrett directly liable for any injury caused to Dodge because of her effort to silence him. Whether he will win eventually in court is of course unknown.
The decision was not a complete victory for Dodge. The court dismissed his suit against the school district and its human resource officer, both of whom tried to act reasonably with an unreasonable person (Garrett) and in doing so helped her in some part in hurting Dodge. However, both the district and the HR officer in the end supported Dodge, so his case against them was dismissed.
The final result, at least in this school, is that the control freak in charge is now gone, and might face financial pain for being a control freak. We should celebrate these small blessings.
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