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Washington Middle School teacher suspended

After a long history of student confrontations and abusive actions, WMS teacher is suspended yet again

Brett Richter, Staff Reporter
Originally published March 5, 2020

In 2018, Meany Middle School (MMS) math teacher James Johnson punched one of his students in the jaw after being shoved by the student in a conflict spurred by an argument in class, according to a district investigation summarized in a series of KUOW articles. He claimed this was an act of self-defense. He also reportedly jabbed another student in the throat.

Earlier this year, Johnson was placed yet again on administrative leave, after public radio station KUOW launched an investigation into the situation. 

KUOWs reports about a district investigation into Johnson confirms that he sexually harassed female students at Meany, touching their legs and arms in class. He also baked a batch of brownies for one girl and, despite a disciplinary letter, called her names like “baby girl” and “honey.” 

Another student stopped coming in for extra help during lunch because he started to “creep her out,” reports an investigator who participated in a school district investigation into Johnson in 2018. 

Despite these findings, Johnson was then employed at Washington Middle School (WMS). After starting there, students complained about his inappropriate behavior, including touching students against their will, calling them names, and reportedly nagging one student to remove her hijab.

The student reports eventually made their way to the WMS PTSA, where parents were alarmed by the apparent silence on the school’s end. The attitude held by the parents’ was similar to senior Vivian Mourad’s. 

“I don’t care if you’re looking to hire somebody from Harvard Law, if they are not good around kids do not hire them,” Mourad said. “The children are your number one concern.”

Johnson’s past conflicts with parents, students, and Seattle Public Schools is hard to navigate. It started in 2004 at Lakes High School, in Lakewood, Washington. There, Johnson pushed a student into lockers, breaking their chain necklace. 

In 2010, Johnson was working at The Nova Project High School (NHS) in Seattle. In an email, Johnson was called out as a danger to the school by the school’s Principal, Mark Perry. Perry ended Johnson’s contract, but he was given a pass by then-Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and returned to NHS.   

In 2012, a faculty member at McClure Middle School called 911 after the principal seemingly ignored the reports of Johnson walking through the halls, holding two 13-year old girls by the waist. 

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Washington Middle School teacher suspended