Strong public support for teacher accused of harassment

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BELLEVILLE, IL (KPLR) – The gym at Harmony Emge Jr. High was packed and the crowd was vocal and emotional.  It was all because they want the teacher known as Mr. Watkins to keep his job.

Parents, teachers and students packed the gym on Monday night to support a teacher whose job is on the line.  The school board for the Harmony Emge 175 school district met and will decide if Jim Watkins a beloved 30-year veteran of the district and basketball coach should be fired because of allegations of sexual harassment. The complaint was allegedly made by a younger female teacher at the school. Sources say the school’s principal not the teacher actually filed the complaint. There are also allegations that the district is trying to get rid of the social studies teacher because he’s the highest paid in the district in order to save money. Supporters including the teacher’s ex-wife say they just want a fair and thorough investigation.

The board went into a closed session for more than two hours and by FOX 2's 10pm broadcast there was still no decision. According to a friend of Watkins the teacher is in the process of filing a civil lawsuit against the district. The teachers union was also on hand to help handle work negotiations.

FOX 2 reached out to the attorney involved in the civil case and are still waiting to hear back.