Michelle Johnson Case Teaches Lessons about Torches, Pitchforks, Rumors, and Racist Jerks

1. Torches, Pitchforks, Rumors, and Racism

Today has been the first regular work day after the news broke that Brea-Olinda High School math teacher Michelle Johnson, was arrested for allegedly, and let’s remember to include that word, having sexual relations (of some sort) with one or two male students.  I’m pretty sure that it has been a big topic of water cooler discussion.  I say that based on just one bit of evidence — it was a big topic of discussion at my wife’s workplace in Central Anaheim, a place that has little to do with either public education or Brea.  If it dominated conversation there, without my wife (a Brea-Olinda High School parent) having been the one to bring it up, it probably did so in much of the county.

torches and pitchforks

Arguably, our actual national pastime.

In my previous story on the then-breaking scandal involving  I looked at some of the scummy “attaboy” reactions to the news of an alleged teacher-student affair.  Today, we’ll have a little more of that — but we’ll also look at how the scandal-stoking machine operates in the OC blogosphere.  (As with many things about OC, lots of places do it; we just happen to be really good at it.)  Chances are that most readers aren’t following the Weekly’s comments section, so this is a chance for you to see what many people are reading.  Here are excerpts of the conversations there:

BreaWildcat: In her 2012 yearbook photo she [Michelle Johnson] says:

“If I had super powers, I’d go back in line and re-live my Twenties!”. This is a women who hangs at Panera with her students, tweets jokes and likes the boys in her class to call her Mom.  FREEPER: Female Creeper.

anonymous1891: Both Male and Female students call her Mom because she has two popular children at the school, she tutors at Panera without pay. These accusations came the day after seniors final grades were submitted, suspicious. No charges have been filed. Wait for the whole story to come out.

BreaWildcat: Clearly you believe in Mrs. Johnson and support her. It is always hard when you find out someone you respect is a child molester.

It would be easier to believe if she had been accused before and there were not more than one victim this time. Even more creepy is her daughters former boyfriend! And HIS FATHER CALLED THE COPS, not exactly the makings of another BOHS grading scandal.

No charges have been filed because she is a member of the POWERFUL CTA,’s  which could bring BOUSD to it’s knees once again.

anonymous1891: I don’t know the details and knowing her for a very long time I find all of this hard to believe, but am just waiting to see if charges are brought against her and what the district’s investigation brings. CTA did not stop a Brea teacher that was arrested but never charge (after threatening a student) from getting fired a few years back. I just would like to hear more facts. An teenage ex-boyfriend can do some crazy stuff. There are websites to fabricate text messages, we don’t know the facts just the gossip.

BreaWildcat: [In response to my suggestion that OC Weekly would have been better off closing comments than inviting the sort of comments that they quickly received]  I think that’s what the school district [wants people?] to do. Some people knew about this a week ago, but they waited to arrest her until the last day of school!

Staff KNEW.

Keeping it quiet appears to be exactly what they wanted.

anonymous1891: Who knew about this a week ago? You are just spreading gossip with no facts what so ever.

BreaWildcat: The staff at BOHS, Canyon and Brea Junior High, as well.

Further, reports from the BPD were leaked by a students parent, who in turn began the rumor mill. It wasn’t however, until an uninvolved witness (to the second event) came forward and approached Principal Halpin that things started moving, including the arrest which was discussed with BOTH district officials and the OCDA, and determined bet conducted right before school was released.

There are memo’s out there regarding this to staff dated as early as 6/5/13.

You are the one with no facts, request a police report, request full disclosure from Halpin and the school district (pretty hard now that he’ll be away for the summer!).

THE STAFF KNEW AND KEPT IT UNDER WRAPS.

OC_TeacherYou should clarify that “staff” does NOT mean “faculty”. Your assertion that so many people were in the know prior to the arrest is 100% FALSE. Most of the BOHS faculty and student body did NOT know who the teacher and minor were until well after being informed Thursday morning of an arrest the previous evening. Admin. and support staff knew, yes, but you’re making it sound like there was a school-wide conspiracy to protect the teacher or keep the arrest under wraps, WHICH WAS NOT THE CASE.

gregdiamond: That sounds a lot more plausible then the story this anonymous guy has been telling.  He wants us to think that people just LOVE to protect teachers who have sex with students. Not so much, actually, though it’s great for them to be fans of due process..
BreaWildcat:  To begin with, I am not a HE, I am a SHE. I am anonymous because I have to return to this campus next year. Who are you?

I support due process, however, if I knew about this, before so did MANY OTHERS. OC Teacher has not divulged his name, likely for the same reason I can’t.

I never said people LOVE to protect teaches who RAPE students, I think they like to avoid controversy. How else do you explain the two MALE coaches who were removed in the past 18 months for “inappropriate” contact, one of whom coaches in South OC, while still dating the BOHS graduate (now an 18 year old)?

Simply put, district and school officials were equally concerned with “fall out” and “damage control” as they were about the safety of the student(s) involved.

BreaWildcat:  It was common knowledge, there was a detailed discussion at BOHS about whether the suspects Son would walk (he didn’t) at graduation. In defense to your suggestion, there was FAR more concern for the Son then there was the suspect.

I believe you and perhaps some others were not aware that a colleague was suspected of child molesting, but that is my point, WHY NOT?

This is not the first such allegation, surely you are aware of that…….

vegandawg23:  Hope teacher’s like this are still around when my boy turns 14. Save me the trouble of taking him down to TJ.  [Gustavo calls him vile in response to this; I tell Gustavo that this was an example of why to close comments.  That gets the reaction below.]

vegandawg23: What’s your problem anyways? If you don’t like the comments on such an article stop scrolling down after you read the article. As if by magic the comments disappear for you.

Gustavo can’t take a joke. Unlike you he is a moderator and could have deleted mine or anyone else’s comment he didn’t like. I respect him for allowing open dialogue. You however are some kinda control freak who wants to control what people say on the internet. This isn’t your classroom or church jerkoff.

gregdiamond: “If you don’t like the comments on such an article stop scrolling down…”

Not caring about something so long as you can’t see it?  Pretty unusual for a vegan.  Common for a dog, though.

One of Gustavo’s better features is his willingness to call out racist assholes most of the time.  Racist assholery, especially from someone without the guts to sign their name to it, isn’t “open dialogue,” it’s flinging poo.

vegandawg23: And what about my comments is racist?  !? Think you need to visit one of the OC Weekly’s sponsors in  the back and lighten up. Nothing I said in my comments on this story was remotely racist.

Also a racist would go to a white hooker in Vegas instead of supporting non-white’s in TJ or an Asian (any hapa ones around?) one in thailand in my case. By your stupid ideology I’m thinking you don’t even believe non-whites can be racist. You’re likely some teacher at the school in question. Probably social studies from your comments.

Ever consider that all these people you’re screaming “racism” at in your comments just don’t give a crap about PC thought police such as yourself and in reality don’t have a problem with anyone?

gregdiamond: “Nothing I said in my comments on this story was remotely racist.” 

Admittedly, you’re less of a racist than you are an idiot, a coward, and a great reason to close comments sometimes.  But … still a racist.

Believing that going to a prostitute of a given race makes you not a racist is nuts.  No wonder you stay anonymous.

BreaWildcat: Why close comments? While this jackass is obviously being foolish, Nothing is MORE vile to me then the sexual abuse of minor children. I believe by California law, it doesn’t matter if the suspect was the “penatratee or penatror”, it’s still RAPE.This filthy bitch, more than once manipulated this kid. A seventeen year old boy lacks the emotional maturity to deal with this “emotional incest” let alone the stigma of having banged your girlfriends Mom, which he did at school.It sounds like you another district defender wanting to “slow down” and let the cover up develop.

gregdiamond: Why close comments?  Because their nature was so likely to be exactly what we’ve seen here.

Then again, a minority of comments were also always likely to be politically motivated crap like yours, so in a way I suppose that balances out all of the “attaboy” comments.

I don’t think we have to worry about a cover-up.  I do think that we have to worry about demagogues like you who anonymously post salacious rumors but still expect what they say to be treated with respect..

P.S. No idea what you mean by “your girlfriends Mom.”  Was she a parent of a girl at BOHS?  If not, then what are you talking about?  On second thought, don’t bother answering.

BreaWildcat: Politically motivated crap?

A Young man was SEXUALLY ABUSED! Who are you? Perhaps if you had children involved you would feel differently. Perhaps not, you sound like a blind defender, likely a staff member yourself.

Victim #1 was the former boyfriend of the suspects daughter, the “best friend” of the Son. the Son was unable to “walk” at graduation because of the scandal, that in it. Victim #2 is a close friend of his as well.

I don’t know who GREGDIAMOND is, but clearly he wants to point blame at the victim(s). His statement: “I don’t think we need to worry about a cover up” is most troubling. I think WE NEED to worry about a cover up.

gregdiamond: Who am *I*?  My name is right out there.  Who are YOU?  Why would you feel the need for anonymity given that you’re on the side of the torch-and-pitchfork crowd here? 

You clearly know — or pretend to know — a lot about the specifics of the story, although you won’t explain how.  Why should you be considered credible? 

I’m not a BOHS or District staff member.  I’m the father of a recent BOHS graduate and of another student entering this fall.  If there is a cover-up — which usually comes BEFORE an arrest, as now it’s sort of TOO LATE — I’ll want to pursue it VIGOROUSLY.  But I’m not going to try to slam the school district based on nothing — which is what you’ve shown so far.

I presume that this is political because you (anonymously, as is OC blogging custom) said something nasty about the unions and because your arguments are so loony that they don’t seem to bear any other explanation.  Look at them:

“Why wouldn’t the other teachers already know?”  Probably so that she wouldn’t be tipped off and run!

“Why wouldn’t they arrest her the week BEFORE finals?”  Probably because the police apparently agreed that she wasn’t a flight risk and everyone knew that this story would be devastating for students, so it was better if it came out AFTER FINALS.

Only an idiot or someone intent on scoring political points wouldn’t get this.  So if this isn’t political on your part, I guess that narrows it down.  Your thinking that I’m “blaming the victims” here may well seal the case for idiocy.

BreaWildcat: Let’s just wait and see, Mr. Diamond.

Thank you for referring to me as an idiot twice.

Good luck to your children. Their Father is obviously very active in their lives, posting all day on Fathers Day. Great job Dad!

Is this guy for real?

gregdiamond: “Thank you for referring to me as an idiot twice.”

You’re welcome, and you’re welcome for my stopping after the second time.  However, to be fair, what I said is that you were either an idiot or politically motivated — and my money’s still on the latter.

Why don’t you have a nice conversation with vegandawg23?  I’d enjoy seeing what else you two anonymous writers agree on.

BreaWildcat: Just because I don’t condone the rape of our kids, doesn’t make me an idiot.

Why not bash OC TEACHER for being anonymous? A little selective are we? Chauvanistic Pig.

Pretty sad revalation from the victim today huh! MORON

OC_Teacher: You’re being bashed because of your rush to judgment, your conspiracy mongering, your rumor-slinging, your name-calling, your baseless assertions, etc.

Some of us prefer a wait-and-see (i.e. DUE PROCESS) approach before labeling people as “rapists”. If Johnson is indeed found guilty of an abuse charge (the notice sent out to teachers mentioned a “statutory rape” arrest, but a $20,000 bail is more in line with felonious emails and “sexting”), then, as Greg said, “we’ll pursue it VIGOROUSLY”. Of the more reasonable-sounding people contributing to this discussion (NOT the “Dude banged his teacher!!!” crowd), NO ONE is blindly defending Johnson. In fact, to insinuate that ANY teacher would defend her IF she’s charged and found guilty is pretty fucking stupid. In fact, we’ll be the first to celebrate whatever punishment is meted out to her (assuming it’s severe enough).

Who or what is your source anyway? Because some of the shit you’re tossing out there is plain wrong. Instead of trading rumors with whomever your colleagues are at the high school, perhaps you should have been more focused on the education of your kids. (Because from experience, and I have two decades of it, it’s always the worst teachers who gossip-monger the most.)

BreaPERVERT [apparently previously BreaWildcat — and I approve of her no longer using the school’s nickname]Your anonymity provides you little or NO credibility OC Teacher (at least using Mr. Diamonds logic).

My source is a victim (there is more than one). I have read the police reports. This goes way beyond SEXTING. What have I said that is wrong. I would offer defending a teacher who molests a minor child is wrong, but aparently not in your eyes, nor Mr. Diamonds.

NOTE TO TEACHER: Statutory Rape is still RAPE. and again it doesn’t matter who the penetrator was, the aggressor is at fault (at least under California law) .

It would be interesting to see you put YOUR name behind the post as Greg Diamond has suggested I do. Then again, he assumed I was a male and an idiot. I think he is a pedophile protector. I wish he used his real name so I could send CPS to check out his make believe kids. There were NO DIAMONDS graduating.

There is an arrest report floating around. I suppose that’s BULLSHIT too.

I guess the reason BOHS has a new baseball coach is because of it’s record too!

gregdiamond: BreaPervert: You have my real name.  I ran for State Senate last year in the area including Brea; you can easily find out what info you’d like about me.

My kids have a different last name.  One just graduated from BJS, not BOHS.

So you’re close to one of the victims, meaning that you have a bias.  You’ve read the police reports (which contain allegations) and the arrest report.   Great — tell us what’s in it!  To what did Johnson admit — that allowed her to make bail of only $20K?  Was it on the level of sexting?  You don’t get that low a level of bail for raping a child.

You know what’s alleged; you don’t know what’s true.  You’re perfectly willing to say that those of us who want to let the criminal justice system do it’s job are “defending a teacher who molests a minor child,” rather than waiting to find the facts.

So are you on faculty or staff at BOHS?  As a parent, I’m very interested.

2. My take on the conversation

Bad things happen — including to children, including in school.  Sometimes bad things get covered up, as well. This is one reason that I think that whistle-blowing is important — and why I sometimes represent people facing retaliation for whistle-blowing.

And … sometimes whistle-blowers are wrong.  Sometimes they exaggerate; sometimes they make things up.  Most of us who aren’t directly in touch with whistleblowers won’t necessarily know.  Those of us who are in touch with them won’t necessarily know for sure.

That’s why it is generally a really bad idea to attack those people without personal knowledge of an event for reserving judgment.  This is even more so when the stakes are really high — as with accusations of rape.

The most important facts that strike me about this case are  these:

  1. There was a parent complaint.
  2. There was an arrest.
  3. There was a release on bail for a relatively paltry $20,000.

The last of these strikes me as particularly important in reacting to this case.  Yes, it may be low in part because she is not a flight risk (if she isn’t), but still — that seems low for such a case.  As a commenter towards the bottom says, it suggests that the court believes that there was a good likelihood of some impropriety — but maybe not exactly what we’ve heard through the rumor mill.  (One reason that I include so much of the above conversation is to show just how hard the rumor mill has been working.)

If Johnson engaged in any impropriety at all — including, perhaps, just suggestive texts — my guess is that she’ll be gone (and if she isn’t, it would be likely because it fell far short of the allegations.  Teachers and unions are not eager to invite the suspicion of parents in this regard.)  Her arrest might be as simple a function of her having admitted to something minor.  And, absolutely, it could indicate something far worse.

The question that lets us judge the propriety of some of the challenges below — and yes, obviously, as a participant I’m biased about what’s there — is this: is a successful cover-up likely?

Here, I don’t think that it is.  It’s too hot of a potato.  The Administration would have little interest in covering up the smoke if they know that there’s provable fire.  The teachers’ unions need little more than the guarantee of proper due process.  Johnson, if guilty, might want one — but her ability to act is limited.  The Police and the often-unresponsive District Attorney are in high gear.  And it seems to be coming down the pike quickly enough so that little developing a plan and coordination of witnesses is even possible.

By way of comparison, let’s consider the scandals in County government of last year.  With Bustamante, Daly, and Mauk, we were talking about people with excellent connections — including, I’m told, with the DA’s office.  In the former cases, office sexual harassment usually has nowhere near the ability to grab the public’s attention as sexual involvement with children.  (The exceptions, like the Monica Lewinsky scandal, just help to prove the rule.)  Witness coordination, itself largely a function of delay, looms as a serious possibility.  (Were Tom Daly on the outs with the County’s power structure, the delays in investigation, leaving open the possibility of coordination of witnesses, would still be something you’d see discussed every week in the papers.  But — he isn’t.)

I simply don’t see how a successful cover-up is that likely here.  It’s possible — sure.  But likely?  The police have every reason to show how well they can crack a case on such a sensitive topic.  The administration knows that they’ll be under tight scrutiny — especially from those who want to score cheap points against public sector unions.  Letting justice run its course seems pretty damned reasonable.

The danger, on the other hand, is that Johnson will be railroaded.  (And, again, she could be guilty of something big or of something small, as well as of nothing significant.)  The torches-and-pitchforks crowd will be out for blood, to prove that we can “protect our children” and to preserve the myths that 17-year-old boys are not massively sexual creatures and that power doesn’t translate into sexual demands and favors all throughout adult life.  And their primary weapon will, as usual, be the one that you see above: assume guilt and accuse anyone who wants to allow justice run its course from being on the side of the victimizers, from being soft on crime.

So, you have someone willing to assert, not knowing who the hell I am, that I must be a “pedophile protector” with “make-believe kids.”

You know, I’m duly scared of — if she’s guilty of something significant — the Michelle Johnsons of the world.  But I’m also scared of the people who will make charges, often anonymously, without compunction.

That’s not just because of my overarching concern about civil liberties and civil rights, by the way.  It’s because so often, the people who make such charges turn out to be guilty of serious crimes themselves — and so often, if they’re powerful, receive ample portions of the protection that they would deny to others.

That’s why I say: if the system looks like it’s working, let it work.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)