Fargo School Board President Removed for Accusations of Bullying

School Board Vice President Rebecca Knutson will take over the rest of Johnson's term

FARGO, N.D. — Jennifer Benson continued to choke up as she addressed her fellow Fargo School Board members.

“It might take me a bit to get through this but please bare with me because I think it’s important that we talk about even though it’s very, very difficult clearly,” she said.

She told them how their president, Jim Johnson, had bullied her and disrespected the public by not taking the comments they made to him seriously.

“I can’t say that it was necessarily a surprise but it’s an uncomfortable situation no matter what,” said Vice President Rebecca Knutson, who is now taking over the rest of Johnson’s term until July.

The board voted 6-3 to remove Johnson from his presidential role.
He will remain on the board because he is an elected official.
KVRR reached out to Johnson and Benson but both were unavailable for comment.
The situation has brought up the question: what should someone do if they are being bullied at work?

“The best thing is to speak up at the moment and let the person know, you are making me uncomfortable because they probably have no idea that they’re doing that,” said Jane Pettinger, MSUM Human Resources professor.

Pettinger says if the bullying persists, it is best to talk to a supervisor or the Human Resources department.
However, there’s some others who could make a difference.

“Coworkers have a role to play just like in high school. Don’t be a bystander. Stand up for one another,” she said.

Pettinger says bullying has become increasingly rare in the workplace over the last 20 years, but there’s still more that can be done.

“There are people out there, there are organizations out there where bullying is almost a norm. But the better organizations recognize that their employees are actually a resource and an asset. We need to make sure that asset is healthy and healthy includes mental health,” Pettinger said.

Pettinger says organizations that want to do well in the long run and take care of their employees typically have an Employee Assistance Program.

People in the program are trained to teach employees proper communication in the workplace.

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