Video: Knoxville students protest teacher termination

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Knoxville Junior High students are protesting the contract termination of one of their math teachers.

The Galesburg Register Mail is reporting that the Knoxville School District voted Monday to not renew the contract of math teacher Michelle Nelson after this school year.

The school board agenda also shows that the district also planned on eliminating three other teachers that night for budget reasons, but Nelson's position was not on that list.

Thursday, Nelson told News 8, "It has absolutely nothing to do with budget cuts. I was just told my contract would not be renewed for the following school year."

Superintendent Mike Wilder said district policy does not allow him to comment on personnel issues.

Wednesday, students at the junior high protested in the commons area in the school, shouting, "We want Nelson. We want Nelson."  One of the students shared video of the protest with News 8. Some protesting students also refused to eat lunch in the school cafeteria.

“She is actually an amazing teacher, she's always been there for students, she's really trustworthy," said seventh grader Paige Davis.

Nelson said she's proud of her students.

“I’ve definitely just been telling my kids that your character is really judged during opportunities like this and to keep it positive. It's okay to voice your opinion, but do it peacefully, and we’re still here to learn," she said.

A spokesman for the Knoxville Police Department said a "couple of people" were arrested for disorderly conduct after Monday's school board meeting.  He said those people continued to protest more than an hour after the meeting adjourned.

The Galesburg Register Mail also reported that the district isn't disciplining any of the kids for the protests.

Superintendent Wilder explained that the district wants to use the tough decision as a teachable moment.

“We’re not in the business of telling them how to feel or what opinions they should have. We just ask that they do it in a way that is gonna be peaceful and not disrupt the environment," said Wilder.

The students planned to continue the protest.  A Facebook group was started in support of their efforts to Keep Mrs. Nelson - to view it, click here.