Suit: Pennsylvania district defamed teacher over Jan. 6 Trump rally
A Pennsylvania teacher who attended Donald Trump's “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington has sued his former school district, saying it destroyed his reputation and career by falsely linking him to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
Jason Moorehead claims that Allentown School District officials were motivated by “ideological hatred” for his conservative politics when the district announced one day after the riot that one of its teachers “was involved in the electoral college protest that took place at the United States Capitol Building."
Moorehead said he was nowhere near the Capitol that day. He has never been charged with a crime.
The district suspended Moorehead for six months, then ordered him to return to work. Moorehead refused, saying a return to the classroom was impossible after district officials deliberately turned the community against him in a bid to force his resignation. The district never retracted its statement or cleared his name, he said, and individual school board members whipped up a public frenzy against him even though his teaching record was spotless.
Last month, the school board fired him over his refusal to return to work.
Now Moorehead, 45, is seeking monetary damages and a retraction, saying his 18-year education career is finished. Moorehead said he has been subjected to harassment and death threats, and the ordeal has placed a severe financial burden on his family. His wife has filed for divorce.
He sued in Lehigh County Court on Tuesday, alleging violations of his constitutional rights.
“It is impossible for me to return to any kind of educational environment working with children because it's been so poisoned,” the middle school social studies teacher said in a phone interview.
The district's lawyer, John Freund III, said Moorehead’s rights were “scrupulously protected” while district officials probed his activities on Jan. 6. “At the conclusion of the investigation Mr. Moorehead was reinstated, but he failed to return to work,” Freund said.
The district had previously found fault with Moorehead’s social media posts about the events of Jan. 6, and not just his presence in Washington that day. At one point, Moorehead posted a selfie of himself on Facebook in a “Make America Great Again” hat and carrying a Revolutionary War-era flag, captioning it: “Doing my civic duty!” Moorehead also shared a post that said: “Don’t worry everyone the capitol is insured,” appending his own one-word comment: “This.”
In its July 2021 reinstatement letter, the district told Moorehead that his posts were “distasteful, insensitive, inconsiderate, thoughtless, uncaring.” Moorehead's lawsuit said the posts were protected by the First Amendment.
“To be accused of horrible things has destroyed my life,” Moorehead said. “It’s one of those things where I’m struggling each day to figure out my new purpose, because everything I had has been taken from me.”
Moorehead's lawyer, Francis Malofiy, is also asking a judge to strike down part of the state's public school code, which says a teacher can be fired for advocating “un-American or subversive doctrines.” The district's lawyer had cited that section of the code in a newspaper interview about the district's investigation of Moorehead.