When LaPierre shared Johnson’s story with her eighth-grade civics class in the fall of 2020, the teens vowed to help the accused woman.
After researching the legislative process, the students drafted a bill to clear Johnson’s name, and Diana DiZoglio, a Massachusetts state senator, agreed to sponsor it. She worked with the teens on revising it and introduced it in the state senate in early 2021.
But the students soon learned that laws don’t get made overnight. That fall, a new class of eighth-graders picked up where the first class had left off, writing letters to lawmakers on Johnson’s behalf. Despite those efforts, the bill stalled earlier this year.
“It was placed in study, which we learned basically meant it was dead,” says Lucas Ioakim, 15.
But DiZoglio had an idea. In the spring, the senator included the bill as an amendment to a budget bill then making its way through the state legislature. When the governor signed the budget into law in July, Johnson’s name was officially cleared.
“These students [had] the courage to be a voice for someone who hasn’t had a voice for so long,” says DiZoglio. “This amendment would not be possible without their tireless efforts.”
As for the students who spent two years fighting for Johnson, it was a lesson in hard work, but also a reminder that it’s important to speak up for what’s right.
“Even though we’re only students, we can make an impact,” Olivia says. “We changed history.”