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Controversy Hits Southeast Polk School District After Beloved Teacher’s Firing

PLEASANT HILL, Iowa -- Past and present Southeast Polk students and teachers are not ashamed to show "Ram Pride."  Former teacher Connie Dawson is one of them.  "It`s a wonderful district. I'm very proud to have been a part of Southeast Polk it`s my pride," she said.

Dawson says Lois Johnson, a teacher within the district for over forty years shows it the most.  She said, "If you come to a basketball game you can always see her leading the cheer.  She even led one at girls state this year," Dawson said with a laugh.

The district says it`s not enough to prevent Johnson from being fired recently from her substitute teaching position after the way she allegedly grabbed a disruptive student by the arm in class.  "It`s just shocking anything like this could happen to her," said Johnson.  She added, "She is such a good person of high character and morals and belief in God and so it was shocking."

Connie is not alone.  As of Wednesday, close to 10,000 have signed a petition to reinstate Lois Johnson.  "It should mean a lot and these are people from forty years ago who've known her up until current," said Dawson.

In a statement, the Southeast Polk Community School District said, "While we cannot comment on the petition specifically because of confidentiality obligations, our understanding of the facts is different than as set out in the petition.  Our focus continues to be on the students we serve and providing them with the best learning environment we can."  Dawson responded saying, "As someone who has been in education you don`t know unless you were there and so I`m not speaking to the incident because I was not there but I`m only speaking to the character of my good friend."

Expecting a large crowd, petition signers tell 13 News they have reached out to the district to request a bigger venue for Thursday`s school board meeting but were told any overflow will be forced to stand outside.  The school district says they are not aware of any such requests.  Dawson said, "One thing she said to me is, 'It`s my reputation. I've always had an excellent reputation as a teacher and a coach and a mentor to these children."

The school board meeting is still scheduled for 5:30 pm Thursday at the district office in Pleasant Hill.  A closed session board meeting is scheduled afterward to discuss an unnamed teacher's performance or discharge.

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