Morton School District investigating accusations against teacher for years of homophobia, racial insensitivity, and more

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MORTON, Ill (WMBD) — A current part-time Morton High School teacher is facing accusations of homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and racial insensitivity.

Student testimonies show these claims go as far back as 2009.

The district’s superintendent Dr. Jeff Hill twice confirmed in e-mails that there is an ongoing investigation into these allegations against French teacher Kim Johnson.

For weeks, WMBD has been speaking with former students, current students, and parents who allege Johnson created a “harmful and uncomfortable” environment for students in her American Problems class.

Now, many are speaking out, some for the second time, hoping the school district will hear them and take some form of action.

“I think that she is exacting and hateful is the way that I could put it,” Maya Phan, 2017 Morton High graduate, said. “I don’t think there are any words that can quite accurately describe the amount of damage that she has done as an educator.”

Phan said she took Johnson’s American Problems class in 2016. She said the class provided an opportunity for students to debate hot topics such as race, abortion, gay marriage, immigration, etc. However, she claims Johnson used the class’ open debate forum to express her own views and make harmful comments.

“She claimed to have a very impartial role and it very much quickly turned into her spewing her own opinions,” Phan said. “Her opinions were often very hurtful and very much either racist or homophobic and she would say it in front of everybody in class not knowing whether people are LGBT+ in the classroom.”

Phan said she doesn’t believe educators view points belong in the classroom and recounted more comments she claims Johnson made during class.

“She basically said that people that looked like me, she wouldn’t have any problem if I got stopped at an airport for no reason because it’s a better use of police allocation and funding,” Phan said. “She proceeded to ask me if I was gay in front of the entire class. She warned a boy to be careful at a college party because girls like to cry rape.”

Phan isn’t the only former student coming forward.

“I remember comments being made like if you were gay that was because you weren’t wanted in your parent’s womb,” one former student who had Johnson’s class in 2017, said.

This student wanted to remain anonymous and said she did make a formal complaint against Johnson while she was still in school.

She said Johnson would claim to play devil’s advocate on certain topics, but instead alleged the teacher created an environment for her and other students to freely express hostility.

“Every time I left the classroom, I just felt like I was just shaking and nervous,” she said.

WMBD learned at least two other students have made formal complaints against Johnson with Morton High School’s administration.

Andrew Irwin said he had the same class back in 2009 and said he witnessed similar actions.

“I signed up for American Problems with the intention and the hope to learn about the problems that were facing America, and it was very early on in the semester that Kim Johnson shared with our class that she thought being gay was a choice,” Irwin said. “And it was at that time that it became clear to me that there wasn’t going to be a lot of productive learning going on in that classroom.”

He also alleged Johnson would hug her students often, sit on their desks, and bring her religious views into the classroom, which he said would make him and others uncomfortable.

“She was incapable from what I could tell from separating her responsibilities as an educator with her religious beliefs,” Irwin said.

As WMBD learned of more allegations, we reached out to Johnson to give her the opportunity to share her side of the story. We sent e-mails, phone calls, and Facebook messages and Johnson never replied.

When we reached out to Dr. Jeff Hill, the school district’s superintendent, he responded via e-mail saying the district is aware of the allegations against Johnson, which are currently under investigation. He stated, “due to the ongoing nature of the investigation and the fact that this involves a matter involving both student and employee privacy, we cannot provide further comment.”

We also reached out to Jeff Schmidgall, the school board president, for comment and said there’s nothing further to add other than Johnson’s original comments. The original broadcast version inaccurately stated he hadn’t issued a response.

Some students and parents met with the superintendent and principal of Morton High School last Friday to discuss the allegations.

During the Zoom meeting, Hill said they have to consider and investigate all sides before making any final decisions.

“As a school district and as an employer, our employees have rights as well, and so we have to do our due diligence as we work through this process,” Hill said.

Now those making the allegations are pushing for the district to take action in an effort they said is to spare future students the same experiences.

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