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Board accepts popular Mayo High teacher's resignation

Mayo High School teacher Jon Thorson's 10-year tenure with Rochester schools ended Tuesday with the Rochester School Board's vote to approve his resignation and those of 10 other teachers.

Thorson, a popular English and speech teacher, became the focus of a brief school-wide protest campaign when students learned Thorson had been put on an apparent forced leave of absence for uttering an inappropriate word in class.

They later learned that he had resigned. The board's action on Tuesday made his resignation, which is effective June 9, official.

In his first public statement since his resignation, Thorson released an email this morning, saying that, "Mayo will always be a special place for me."

"I really want to thank the students, parents, and fellow teachers for their amazing support while my family and I deal with my resignation," he writes. "The number of current and former students that have reached out to me has been overwhelming. The mature response that the current students at Mayo High School used to support me did not go unnoticed. Mayo will always be a special place for me and I can't wait until my own kids have the opportunity to be a part of such an inspiring community."


"Go Spartans!"

While knowing that they could not change Thorson's fate, a contingent of green-clad Mayo students showed up at Tuesday's board meeting in support of their teacher. Two Mayo students, Amber Armstrong and Ben Viggiano, spoke in front of the board to testify how profoundly Thorson's teaching had impacted them. They read from hundreds of Facebook and Twitter posts from current and former students.

One said that Thorson had given the student the confidence to speak in front of others. Another said Thorson had been the inspiration for the student's decision to become a teacher.

"Thorson can make watching paint dry interesting," one post read by Viggiano said.

The student campaign generated scores of tweets and Facebook posts under the prefix "#FreeThorson." A Facebook page showed Thorson wielding a hammer, his body in the shape of the superhero Thor.

District officials say data privacy laws have prevented them from speaking about the matter. But a district spokesperson said every personnel action the district deals with involves a thorough investigation that involves both the employee and union representation.

Students say that Thorson got himself in trouble when, in a moment of frustration, he uttered the F-word in class when several students came to class unprepared to give speeches after being given extensions. Students say the expletive was not directed at any one student but instead was an expression of exasperation by the teacher.

The board's action was part of the human resources consent agenda that includes the retirements and resignations of other teachers. It typically is voted on by the board without comment and was done so in this case as well.

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