W.Va. School Employee Suspension For Trump Event Prompts Lawsuit

The U.S. Capitol is seen in early morning light in December 2013.

Updated on Jan. 12, 2021 at 5 p.m.

A federal lawsuit said two Jefferson County, West Virginia school bus drivers were suspended in retaliation for attending demonstrations in the nation’s capital. Jefferson County Schools said the employees were placed on paid leave while under investigation for possible illegal activity connected to that event.

Attorney John Bryan filed the lawsuit against Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Bondy Shay Gibson on behalf of bus drivers Tina Renner and Pamela McDonald.

The lawsuit said Renner and McDonald’s actions were protected under the First Amendment when they traveled to Washington, D.C. to support President Donald Trump.

Renner and McDonald rode on a charter bus Jan. 6. After hearing Trump speak at a rally, they walked to the U.S. Capitol, remained in an area designated for public occupation and did not participate in illegal activities, the lawsuit said.

After returning to Jefferson County, Renner and McDonald each received a phone call from the school district’s director of transportation informing them that they would be placed on paid administrative leave. Both also received letters from Superintendent Gibson.

The lawsuit said attending the rally was unrelated to the bus drivers’ employment and that they had enough leave days available to attend the rally.

Gibson said in a statement to West Virginia Public Broadcasting that she “respects the system of due process for all citizens” and “trusts the integrity of the judiciary to uphold that process.” In a prior statement, Gibson said the individuals were being investigated for alleged “threatening and inflammatory” Facebook posts and for violating the county’s leave policy.

Jefferson County Schools reports Renner and McDonald are the only employees under investigation, debunking previous rumors that about 30 other employees were also being investigated.

Last week’s insurrection in Washington, D.C. resulted in the death of a Capitol police officer who sustained injuries as a mob violently ransacked the U.S. Capitol. Police also fatally shot a woman during the riot. Three others died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.