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SMITHFIELD — The status of a suspended Spanish teacher who allegedly segregated her class based on personal beliefs remained unchanged following a Nov. 12 Johnston County Board of Education meeting.
Johnston County Public Schools suspended Julia Lopp with pay following parental complaints regarding a classroom exercise where students were separated based on particular religious and personal beliefs involving abortion and LGBTQ rights. Superintendent Jim Causby said in a statement at the time that “it is never appropriate for a teacher to segregate students based on religious, political or personal beliefs. In fact, it is not appropriate for a teacher to even ask a student what their beliefs are.”
JCPS initiated an investigation through its human resources department and Causby said he would review the findings before making a final determination. Shortly after Lopp’s suspension was announced, supporters created an online petition calling for her reinstatement that garnered hundreds of signatures.
The Nov. 12 meeting provided people the opportunity to express their feelings about the incident to the school board, but only one student spoke during the public comment portion. South Johnston High School student Ben Martin expressed concern about the process and the impact it could have on future teachers.
“I am not here to comment on those allegations but to comment on the grossly mishandled investigation and the moral precedent set by this,” Martin said to the board. “Johnston County and Mrs. Lopp now face national scrutiny with the only officials able to talk remaining silent. Every day deliberation continues, another person associates Mrs. Lopp’s name with unsubstantiated claims. As a student, it is my job to stand for my teachers and publicly represent them. I feel that our county leaders should do the same. It is my opinion that you have two options: stand by your teachers or stand aside so we can find someone who will.”
The meeting ended with no resolution in place.
“Other than the public comment portion, the board did not discuss Ms. Lopp during the meeting,” Nathanael Shelton, JCPS executive director of communication, said in an email to The Daily Record of Dunn. “Her employment status is still ‘suspended with pay.’”
JCPS hired Lopp on Aug. 26. She allegedly threatened students with recourse if they spoke about the classroom exercise with their parents.