Current and former students at Morton High School in Illinois are demanding the removal of a teacher they say routinely insulted LGBTQ+ people and others, saying people became gay because they were unwanted children and that "girls like to cry rape."
About 30 people protested outside the school Thursday evening against teacher Kim Johnson, and they said problems also come from the school district's administration, citing a board member who'd made transphobic comments on Facebook, Illinois TV station WMBD reports.
Johnson's bullying behavior has been going on for years, according to some. She once taught a class called American Problems and is now a part-time French teacher at the school.
"Kim Johnson shared with our class that she thought being gay was a choice," Andrew Irwin, who was in Johnson's American Problems class in 2009, told WMBD in an interview this week.
"I remember comments being made like, if you were gay that was because you were unwanted in your parents' womb," said another former student, who declined to be identified. "Every time I left the classroom I was shaking and nervous."
"She told me that she would be OK with me being stopped in an airport for no reason, just because of the way that I looked," said Maya Phan, a 2017 Morton High graduate. "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 has joined two others in filing a formal complaint against Johnson.
Those who protested Thursday night said there are other problems in the school district. Board member Bart Rinkenberger recently made an anti-transgender comment in a Facebook thread, they said, reading, "Imagine a people so conflicted that they allow a child to decide what gender they want to 'be' but won't allow them to decide to wear a mask or not." Protesters want him removed from the board, which they say is dominated by religious white men.
WMBD sought comment from Johnson, who has not responded, and Rinkenberger, who promised a statement but has yet to submit it. Superintendent Jeff Hill confirmed that an investigation is ongoing but declined to provide details, citing privacy concerns.
He also emailed this statement to the station: "Morton District 709 does not and will not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind. While individual board members, administrators and employees do have First Amendment rights to make statements on their own behalf, the position of the school district is only communicated through the Superintendent or Board President."