LACONIA — The School Board continues to field pleas from local residents demanding the resignation or removal of board member Dawn Johnson over her controversial posts on social media.
The controversy erupted in early December when Johnson reposted a social media link that included an anti-Semitic cartoon, which Johnson has said was inadvertent and unintentional. Johnson has apologized for that posting.
The matter dominated the board’s meeting on Dec. 15 when 20 of the 300 people logged into the virtual meeting demanded she step down, and the board’s other six members called for her to resign, something Johnson adamantly refused to do. A handful of city residents repeated the call for Johnson’s resignation at the board’s meeting on Jan. 5.
On Tuesday a larger number of people called into the virtual meeting insisting once again that Johnson leave the board after what the callers said were her continuing to post offensive views from websites frequented by people who are conspiracy theorists, or who hold white supremacist and anti-Semitic opinions.
Megan Daniels, one of the callers, cited Johnson’s reposting on the website Parler, a post from the Proud Boys, which characterized the assault on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump as an incident that resulted only in two broken windows and a door.
“I am extremely concerned that this person is on our School Board and is representing Laconia,” Daniels said.
Jeffrey Lambert criticized the board’s inaction on the matter.
“I find it extremely troubling and dangerous that the board has continued to allow somebody that reflects such views to be on the board. What she is doing is dangerous to our children,” he said. Lambert, who identified himself as an educator, went on to say that he would never work in the Laconia School District so long as Johnson was on the board.
Board member Aaron Hayward, who chairs the board’s policy committee, acknowledged that the school board as well as himself continue to be bombarded with emails demanding Johnson termination. But, he said, in light of Johnson’s refusal to resign, the board is powerless to act.
“We do not have the authority in any way, shape, or form to create a policy for a board member’s expulsion,” Hayward said, citing legal advice. “There is nothing that authorizes expulsion of someone from an elected board by that board.”
At the board’s Jan. 5 meeting Johnson appealed to the other board members for the opportunity to make a fresh start in the wake of the December posting controversy.
But callers on Tuesday said that her Parler “echo” of the Proud Boys as well reposting material from adherents of the conspiracy group QAnon show that she has shown a pattern of giving voice to what they consider to be false information and dangerous ideas that, they argued, pose a danger to school children.
It was unclear whether Johnson heard the comments. She appeared on the screen view of the Zoom teleconferenced meeting. But once the public comment period began she was no longer visible, which one caller pointed out to the board.