Protests rise over Morton teacher’s alleged homophobia, transphobia, racism

Parents, students and supporters protest alleged bigoted comments from a Morton High School teacher. Photos provided by Lulu Bernard/by Chris Schaffner

Parents, students and the community have protested comments from a Morton High School part-time teacher that they say are anti-LGBTQ and racist.

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

The CBS affiliate reported that the comments were made during Johnson’s American Problems class dating back to 2016, which allowed students to debate controversial topics, but. But students said she took the opportunity to make her own opinions known.

“She claimed to have a very impartial role and it very much quickly turned into her spewing her own opinions,” said Maya Phan, 2017 Morton High graduate, told WMBD. “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 is one of three students to have filed formal complaints about Johnson.

Kristen Elizabeth Meierkord, who participated in the protest and was brought in by the organizers, said the issue has been simmering for years and the protest was organized when parents heard what Johnson had said to their children. Meierkord said that Johnson is tenured and had previously been a full-time teacher. She was moved to part-time after past complaints.

The teacher has also sent out a letter to former students hoping to gather support for a lawsuit she wants to bring against the protest organizers. Screenshots of the letter were sent to the organizers.

The letter sent by Kim Johnson to current and former students asking for support in response to the protests.

Meierkord said the parents who organized it, Tammy Woodmancy and Lulu Bernard, are receiving death threats since the protests. Most coverage locally has been with WMBD, with some from WEEK-TV. However, outside of that, attention has been from outside of Illinois with national LGBTQ outlets such as The Advocate and LGBTQ Nation.

There is an uphill battle since one school board member, Bart Rinkenberger, actually made a transphobic comment over state mask mandates for schools. Morton, in Tazwell County, is a very conservative area.

But that isn’t stopping the parents, even as they come under pressure locally.

“There are lgbtq+ families in the community and these comments and the culture of hostility towards minorities, are not acceptable,” Bernard said. “We will no longer tolerate this behavior.”

To make your opinions known, you can contact the school district, high school and school board.