Update: Resignation of JHS teacher accepted by school board

By Jim McCabe on May 8 at 1:38pm

A Jacksonville High School teacher arrested for disorderly conduct last month will no longer teach at the school.

The District 117 school board accepted a letter of resignation at a special meeting Thursday afternoon from 43-year-old John Lawless, a science teacher at JHS who has been employed for 20 years.

The resignation is effective at the end of the 2013-2014 school year; Lawless is on paid administrative leave until that time, according to school board president Ken Heaton. He says the action was necessary, but wouldn’t go into more details.

Jacksonville Police say Lawless made “unwanted, inappropriate comments” to a student which “alarmed, upset and bothered” the student; the report was taken March 27th. Lawless was arrested April 9th.

Several concerned parents and community members were in attendance for the meeting at the district Central Office. One of them was Doug Parker, who applauded the move.

“As far as I’m concerned the school board accepting his resignation was the right thing to do,” says Parker.

“Maybe [the school board members] don’t want to talk about it, but a young lady brought up that this teacher conducted himself in a highly improper manner verbally. The result that came out today is the least we would have expected. We are happy about it and aren’t vindictive, we just don’t want him teaching kids around here.”

The school board accepted the resignation letter by voting unanimously on a personnel recommendation. Only four members of the school board were in attendance: Heaton, Mike Lonergan, Noel Beard, and Craig Albers. Not present at the meeting were Steve Cantrell, Debra Maul and Cheryl Ballard.

No charges have been filed by Morgan County State’s Attorney Robert Bonjean against Lawless. Bonjean says his office is still reviewing the case and that charges potentially could be filed in the future.

Director of Human Resources and Public Relations Dana Kinley says an internal investigation conducted by District 117 has concluded on the matter, but wouldn’t elaborate.

WLDS-WEAI News reached out to Lawless via telephone this afternoon, and he declined comment.

Updated at 3:45 p.m. to include state’s attorney’s comments.