Green Room

Parents demand teachers supporting molester colleague get fired

posted at 1:50 pm on September 3, 2013 by

Imagine you are a parent who receives a visit from the state police, informing you that a trusted teacher at the local school molested your child — and took pictures of it.  After a painful investigation and trial, the teacher finally gets convicted, and you figure the community will rally around you to demand a stiff sentence for the man who violated the public trust.  However, when you arrive at the courtroom, you see several other teachers sitting in support of the teacher, and arguing for the lightest possible sentence.

Welcome to the West Branch-Rose City (MI) school district, and the nightmare for the Janczewskis (via The Corner):

Erickson admitted to his misdeeds, and the couple attended his sentencing July 10.

That’s when they learned for the first time that numerous teachers in the school district wrote to the court to plead for a lenient sentence for their colleague. They were shocked to see several teachers – and school board member Mike Eagan – sitting across the courtroom with the sex offender’s family.

“Neal made a mistake,” teacher Sally Campbell wrote to the judge, according to the Ogemaw County Herald. “He allowed a mutual friendship to develop into much more. He realized his mistake and ended it years before someone anonymously sent something in to the authorities which began this legal process.”

“I am asking that Neal be given the absolute minimum sentence, considering all the circumstances surrounding this case,” wrote Amy Huber Eagan, a teacher and wife of board member Mike Eagan. “I am also hoping that he can stay remanded to the custody of the Ogemaw County Jail and not be sent to a prison facility.”

“Neal has pled (sic) guilty for his one criminal offense but he is not a predator,” teacher Harriett Coe wrote, according to the Herald. “This was an isolated incident. He understands the severity of his action and is sincere in his desire to make amends. He has been candid and conveyed his action to his family, friends and co-workers.”

In all, 10 people, including seven WB-RC teachers, submitted letters of support for Erickson, most pleading for a reduced sentence. They included Campbell, Amy Eagan, Coe, Toni Erickson, Carol Rau, Marilyn Glover, Sandi Lee, Kathryn Weber, Kathleen Sheel and Kathleen Palmer, the Herald reports.

The judge was not impressed — not with the defendant, and not with his apologists, either:

Judge Michael Bumgartner told Erickson he was “appalled and ashamed that the community could rally around, in this case, you,” according to the Herald.

“What you did was a jab in the eye with a sharp stick to every parent who trusts a teacher,” he said shortly before sentencing Erickson to 15-30 years in prison.

This set off local vigilantes, who went after … the Janczewskis:

Days after the sentencing, the family awoke to a fire in their garage that nearly spread to their house. Someone had also scrawled the letters “ITY-YWP” on the side of their home, presumably a crude acronym for “I told you, you will pay.”

The majority in the local community backed the Janczewskis, though, and demanded that the teachers who wrote letters supporting the molester be fired.  The school board declined:

On Monday night the West Branch-Rose City school board voted not to fire a group of teachers who spoke out against the 15- to 30-year sentence a fellow teacher, Neal Erickson, received after molesting an eighth-grade boy.

“We believe the letters written by the teachers may be protected under First Amendment rights and that any disciplinary action will subject us to expensive, and potentially lengthy, lawsuits,” board President Jack Money read in a statementannouncing the decision.

The victim’s mother, Lori Janczewski, told Glenn Beck on radio Tuesday that she actually could have lived with the knowledge that the teachers were still, ostensibly, caring for and educating other children had it not been for the way they defended the convicted child molester.

“They put at the bottom of their letters that there was no harm done to our son, he’s a straight‑A student,” Janczewski said.  “I can’t live with that,” she said. “They had no idea. And how dare they…”

The school board may not have been able to afford the First Amendment lawsuits that would have resulted from terminations, although if they were representing themselves as co-workers and opining on the health of children in Erickson’s reach — and especially his victim — I’m not sure the teachers would have had a case. There are other ways to deal with this school district, though, which would be to pass a reduction of funding for parents to vote with their feet by taking their children out of the district, either through private school, home schooling, or seeking transfers to another district.  As a parent and grandparent, I wouldn’t hesitate to get my family out of a public-school system where leaders defend molesters over their victims.

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It doesn’t take a union to do that. It has been happening in all of society.
Sterling Holobyte on September 3, 2013 at 4:39 PM

The garage fire and the threatening graffiti at the victim’s parents home have “Union Thugs” written all over them.

VelvetElvis on September 4, 2013 at 7:26 AM

Interesting you say that. I work with many people young enough to be my children or in some cases even grand children. Although I on occasion BS with these people and work closely with them I could never consider them or want them as friends. They are immature and sometimes childish with their views and outlook on life. I just can’t relate to an adult that finds friendship with a small child.

Dr. Frank Enstine on September 3, 2013 at 2:40 PM

I have two grown daughters & I still am not their friend. I love them, but in reality, there are really very few, if any young people around who could relate to a woman my age (44).
Maturity & wisdom are big barriers to true friendships, close friendships. We can love all sorts of people. But when I look at a true friendship, I’m looking at a person who is at my life experience & wisdom level. There are some young people that can fit that bill. But honestly, it is not that many.
Having said that, as a teacher myself in HS science, there are two students in the 12 years I’ve taught that I am friendly with. They have good souls & I feel like a mentor to them. I even, when they got older, have them as Facebook friends, not something I take all that lightly. But we are not true friends.
Too many teachers should not be in this profession bcs they gravitate toward it bcs they are predators of one ilk or another.
Angry controlling a-holes, molesters, perverts, immature infants, they’re legion in this profession.

Badger40 on September 4, 2013 at 7:36 AM

The garage fire and the threatening graffiti at the victim’s parents home have “Union Thugs” written all over them.

VelvetElvis on September 4, 2013 at 7:26 AM

Yes, “really”.
This behavior is indicative of our declining morals and propping up of immorality(as I have said before), much of it propagated by our public school teachers and administrators, who themselves are fed it by the media and society.
It is much broader than just someone’s loyalty to unions.

Sterling Holobyte on September 4, 2013 at 10:12 AM

Worse than this is coming down the slippery slope you’ve been told doesn’t exist. As predictable and inevitable as sunrise.

Don Michael Bitsconi on September 4, 2013 at 10:34 AM

Michigan may be a school-choice state, but as a practical matter, it would be quite difficult for the parents in that district to put their kids in another school. The nearest public schools are about 20 miles away in any direction. It’s not like the suburbs, where you can find a wide range of schools within reasonable distance.
There is a Catholic elementary school in West Branch, but no high school.
The best thing the folks there can do is defeat the board members who perpetrated this fraud.

either orr on September 4, 2013 at 11:13 AM

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