Editor’s note: This is a developing story, and changes and/or edits are likely. Any changes will be tracked at the end of the story.
A former middle school teacher who claims he was fired for being in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6 to hear President Trump’s speech, yet did not set foot on the Capitol grounds, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Allentown School District.
Jason Moorehead is demanding a jury trial and seeks unspecified damages via the complaint filed in Commonwealth Court, tallying 600 pages when including exhibits, saying the school district sacked him over his political views. He previously taught social studies at Raub Middle School for sixteen years.
The filing includes a bombshell allegation that the first part of the district’s investigation was “at the behest and direction of the FBI. He was never informed of this fact, and was never informed of his right to counsel and against self-incrimination.”
The district contends it tried to bring Moorehead back into the fold after the investigation, but he refused to return to work. Moorehead says the invitation to return to work came with unacceptable conditions — namely that he “must undergo training in cultural competencies related to African American and Hispanic United States History,” according to a district document.
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It is undisputed that Moorehead was in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, 2022, and that while there, he posted a picture of himself on social media with the caption, “Doing my civic duty!”
But the picture of Moorehead was not taken at the Capitol. He says he left after the speech, purchased a hot dog, and returned to the bus he had taken that morning, keeping a distance of at least one mile from the Capitol at all times.
Yet because of the violence at the Capitol following Trump’s speech, many in the Allentown area flagged Moorehead’s social media post to school officials.
The district placed Moorehead on paid leave while it investigated, concluding the investigation several months later in July. In the same letter that informed him the investigation had concluded, the district invited Moorehead to return to work. Moorehead objected, claiming the district had created an unsafe work environment for him, arguing that the district needed to publicly clear his name, while still objecting to the demand he undergo “cultural competencies” training.
The standoff between the two parties came to a head one year later, when the district fired him for failing to return to work.
Moorehead and his attorney, Francis Alexander Malofiy, say the rationale of the firing was only a pretext to do what the district had wanted all along, and that the district “never even bothered to ask him if he was anywhere near the Capitol Building before they defamed him and unjustly suspended him for a false and defamatory reason.”
A lawyer for the district provided a short, one-paragraph response to the filing.
“We are aware that Mr. Moorehead has filed a complaint naming the Allentown School District and some 18 individuals as defendants. To our knowledge, none of the defendants have actually been served with the complaint,” the release from John Freund III of the law firm KingSpry said. “Mr. Moorehead was given the opportunity to return to teaching and declined to do so. The district will study the extensive complaint before formulating a response.”
[I]f we’re talking about somebody who was literally a mile away and exercising a First Amendment right to listen to political speech, there’s no way you can say, ‘This person is deserving of being fired.’ And if you were besmirched by their conduct, I see it the way that you see it. [You] cannot have that in the United States.
The district had already released a lengthy timeline and summary of events in response to the controversy and investigation, but also with the expectation that a lawsuit from Moorehead was in the making.
Should the case go to trial, it will largely swing on the district’s social media post on Jan. 7, which said, “On January 7, 2021, the Allentown School District (ASD) was made aware of a staff member who was involved in the electoral college protest that took place at the United States Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.”
Although the district’s posting did not name Moorehead, he and his attorney say a clear inference was given, and that “the community and nation were poisoned against him and believed that he had attacked the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.”
“[T]he reinstatement was a sham, a tactic meant to try to force [Moorehead] to resign. The district was clearly hoping to force Moorehead to resign so they could claim he voluntarily left,” Moorehead and his attorneys say in the complaint.
Beyond the claims that Moorehead’s Constitutional rights were violated, Moorehead and his attorney also argue that the district violated provisions of state law on employment of teachers, as well as the union contract for ASD.
In the district’s summary document, it alleged repeatedly that Moorehead had not shown that an unsafe work environment had been created.
Moorehead and his attorney clearly tried to answer those charges, claiming that he received numerous voicemails that threatened him, such as calling him a “white supremacist,” and an email saying, “The PA Resistance has stated that moorehead [sic] will be sentenced to execution and found guilty soon.”
Other opposition to Moorehead was and still is easy to find on social media, such as this tweet that brands him as a fascist.
Moorehead’s case has occasionally drawn national attention, such as his televised interview shortly after he was fired with CNN weekend host and Philadelphia native Michael Smerconish.
On his national radio show on SiriusXM, Smerconish made a case for Moorehead.
“You seem like a very straight shooter. If it is the way you’ve presented it, I absolutely agree with you,” Smerconish began.
“I would not want a social studies teacher, of all things, teaching my kids if they had breached the Capitol and were caught up in the violence,” Smerconish continued. “I believe they would, they should lose their job. They’d be fundamentally unfit, trying to topple democracy in that role. But if we’re talking about somebody who was literally a mile away and exercising a First Amendment right to listen to political speech, there’s no way you can say, ‘This person is deserving of being fired.’ And if you were besmirched by their conduct, I see it the way that you see it. [You] cannot have that in the United States.”
UPDATE: A tweet from CROH Lehigh Valley was added to this story after the initial publication.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use his encrypted email at email@example.com. @shepherdreports