"Congrats. Were you admitted on merit or quota?" George Clayton, who identified himself in his Twitter bio as a former Texas State Board of Education member, wrote in response to photos of Johnson smiling and showing off his Harvard sweatshirt.
Congrats. Were you admitted on merit or quota?— George Clayton (@SBOEDist12) April 20, 2018
Johnson said the tweet initially threw him off, but he wanted to make sure that he "civilly defused" the situation "while not being aggressive or rude." He responded by listing his credentials, which include being valedictorian of his class and student body president, among other things.
"I would think merit?" he answered, adding that he was accepted to Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, Georgetown and four different University of California institutions.
Thank you! Valedictorian, ASB President, World Champion, good SAT, and a couple handfuls of other involvements, so I would think merit?— Drake Johnson (@_littledrizzy) April 20, 2018
Clayton's tweet landed poorly with many who, based on their responses, questioned why he felt the need to pose the question and wondered if a white student would have been treated the same way.
"Did you become an 'educator' on merit or white privilege?" one commenter retorted.
Did you become an “educator” on merit or White Privilege?— Samuel Aboh Jr. (@FisherRobin) April 22, 2018
Are you asking the same question to white students that are excited and proud (as they should be) to be getting into an Ivy League?— Sami Jo Stone (@MzStone) April 22, 2018
Several current and former Texas State Board of Education members have since expressed their support for Johnson and distanced themselves and the board from Clayton's comment, according to Johnson. Donna Bahorich, the board's current chair, wrote that Johnson "is going places and deserves ONLY accolades and a big high five."
As Chair of the @TXSBOE, my response yesterday to Drake Johnson @_littledrizzy, a young man who is going places and deserves ONLY accolades and a big high five #youmakeusproudDrake: pic.twitter.com/dzQtgltdyj— Donna Bahorich-TX SBOE Chair (@donnabahorich) April 22, 2018
"I do understand that it's not necessarily the result of a rotten tree, but more so just a bad apple," Johnson told ABC about Clayton's affiliation with the board. "Having others from the Texas Board of Education reach out to me with congratulations reinforced that his thoughts don't reflect the entirety of their board."
The overall response, Johnson said, has been "absolutely heartwarming." He conceded that he is expecting pushback during his college career, but he plans to "set my mind on being as successful and accomplished as possible so I can combat these negative comments."
Johnson said he plans to study government and political science at Harvard. After that?
"My plan is to become the President of the United States, so look forward to seeing me on the ballot by 2044," he promised.
Clayton did not respond to ABC's request for comment about the response to his tweet. He did, however, tell the Dallas Morning News that he no longer speaks to the press since retiring from public life.
While Clayton's Twitter profile said he is a 2018 candidate for the Texas State Board of Education, Dallas Morning News said it found no record that Clayton had formally filed to run. The paper reported that Clayton served on the board from 2010 to 2012.