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caption: Washington Middle School in Seattle
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Washington Middle School in Seattle
Credit: KUOW/Liz Jones

Seattle math teacher who punched student in the face is leaving the district

James Johnson had been on paid administrative leave from Washington Middle School since January, when a KUOW investigation revealed his history of abusing students, including punching a student in the jaw at Meany Middle School in 2018.

After the story ran, the district said new allegations had emerged against Johnson, and pulled him from the classroom.

Johnson’s last day with the Seattle Public Schools will be July 1st, according to a school board personnel report. It is not immediately clear whether Johnson was forced out or resigned voluntarily. SPS spokesperson Tim Robinson confirmed Johnson’s departure but declined to provide any additional comment.

January marked Johnson’s third time on paid administrative leave since 2018, during which three separate investigations were opened into his treatment of students, including allegations of intimidation and sexual harassment.

Johnson is separately under investigation by the state Office of Professional Practices, which has proposed suspending Johnson’s teaching certificate for at least eight months, and requiring that he pass a psychological examination. An appeals hearing is scheduled in July.

Johnson received a deferred prosecution for punching the student at Meany, which will result in the charges being dismissed if he meets the imposed conditions. A hearing in that case is scheduled next month.

Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau has apologized for the district’s handling of Johnson, including allowing him to work at Washington Middle School this school year. There, parents and students say, Johnson continued to verbally and physically harass students, despite repeated complaints to school leaders.

At a February school board community forum about the district’s lenient discipline of abusive teachers, Juneau said “I will commit to do better by this community, by the school systems, by the teachers, by leadership, and of course by our families and our students,” and that the district would "do a reset of expectations and human resources."