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School bus drivers file lawsuit against superintendent over suspensions related to Capitol protest

Two veteran school bus drivers from a West Virginia school district have filed a civil lawsuit for suspensions related to their attendance at the January 6 Washington, DC protest.

Tina Renner and Pamela McDonald were suspended by Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Bondy Shay Gibson after receiving word the drivers had “posted threatening and inflammatory posts on their Facebook pages, had been present at the Electoral protest march on Wednesday that erupted in violence, and had violated […] leave policy.”

Renner and McDonald filed a federal Section 1983 civil rights lawsuit on January 11, The Journal reports, claiming a violation of First Amendment rights.

According to the suit, Renner and McDonald “did not witness, nor […] participate in, the lawless actions which occurred that day closer to, and within the Capitol building.”

The suit also alleges Superintendent Gibson is “a known anti-Trump, left-wing activist,” and that she “instructed school employees under her supervision” to monitor district employee social media accounts to see if any were heading to Washington for the rally/protest.

McDonald’s suspension letter noted her sanction was due to being “tagged” in several social media posts “which included threatening and demeaning statements regarding federal government officials.”

Further, the suit claims Gibson treated a left-wing employee differently two years ago: In 2019, a Jefferson teacher along with several other activists had occupied West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s Capitol office. Although the teacher was arrested, Gibson did not suspend him nor mention his name to the press.

Despite Renner and McDonald being cleared by the school board on January 13, they’re moving forward with the suit. Attorney Dan Casto said the district and school board refused to provide a copy of the initial complaint made against the former, with the board also refusing to reveal how the complaint was received. Casto said it came from a member of the community.

From the story:

During the hearing, when Casto asked for the information, board counsel Laura Sutton indicated that Ms. Renner was verbally told of the complaint in the hearing.

Sutton said that since a lawsuit has been filed, the complaint can be sought through discovery. …

“It is readily apparent that the board of education is controlled by a small group of left-wing extremists,” Casto said following the hearing. “These extremists previously convinced the board of education to attempt to steal private property (Rockwool-owned property) in order to carry out their radical agenda. Now, they are telling the board how to handle employee matters.”

Casto said the lawsuit will continue. According to federal court records, an initial hearing has not yet been scheduled in the case.

Approximately 100 supporters of the drivers showed up Monday evening to protest at what was to be the in-person portion of the regularly scheduled board of education meeting. But upon learning of the rally, one board member “indicated that there was a semblance of fear,” and as such the meeting went 100-percent virtual.

The demonstrators nevertheless persisted, gathering “peacefully with signs and American flags.” Attorney Casto spoke to those assembled, saying the district’s action against the drivers “was a textbook definition of abuse of civil rights.”

On Friday, Casto provided The College Fix with a copy of the suit:

Read the Journal articles.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 18 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.