At 7 p.m. in the Ogemaw Heights High School auditorium, the Rose City community will learn the fate of seven West Branch-Rose City teachers who recently wrote letters in support of a colleague convicted of molesting a young student.
John and Lori Janczewski, the victim’s parents, want the teachers fired. They also want school board member Michael Eagan – who sat with the family of convicted child molester Neal Erickson during his sentencing – recalled from office.
“We had been quiet … and sat back and said nothing,” John Janczewski said of the investigation and arrest of their son’s teacher in an interview with EAGnews. “But when (the letters of support from teachers) came out in court we were angry and sick to our stomachs.
School leaders are attempting to determine if the terminations would violate the teachers’ constitutional right to free speech, which could trigger lawsuits that would undoubtedly cost far more than the district can afford.
Meanwhile, hundreds of parents who are rallying behind the Janczewskis are threatening to pull their children from the district if the school board doesn’t act, a serious concern because of the potential loss of per-pupil state funding.
“It’s a huge decision, whichever road we go down,” WB-RC board president Jack Money said at the meeting. “Don’t underestimate how huge it is.”
They could try…doing what they honestly feel to be right?
There are things that matter as much as or more than $$$$…
“Four days after my wife was diagnosed, a state trooper came out to our house and we found out our son was molested,” said Janczewski, who is also fighting his own battle with Multiple Sclerosis. “Somebody sent an anonymous email with pictures of my son to the board of education and the superintendent.”
The email and pictures proved Erickson “was a predator and he groomed our son to molest him,” he said.
Someone also posted the pictures online….
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.
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.
The Janczewskis felt betrayed, hurt, and angry.
Now they have made it their mission to ensure those who supported Erickson no longer work with the community’s children. They have vowed to recall Eagan from the school board if he didn’t willingly step down.
“They are all sick in the head,” Janczewski said of Erickson’s supporters. “They can do their freedom of speech, but their actions” have consequences, he said.
Until Erickson’s sentencing, the family members were “very private people,” Janczewski said. But the teacher support letters convinced them the problem was much larger than Erickson.
They shed their anonymity to demand the teachers and Eagan are held accountable, and the vast majority of the community rallied around them in support.
But obviously someone does not support 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.”
Attitudes about right and wrong – especially with regards to children and sex – appear to have changed drastically.
When Rose City middle school teacher Neal Erickson pleaded guilty to molesting one of his students a while back, most observers expected an open-and-shut case with the school community rallying around the teenage victim.
And in some ways it was. Erickson was sentenced to 15-30 years in prison for carrying on a sexual relationship with a boy in his young teens between 2006 and 2009. That should have been the end of the horrific tale.
But seven teachers kept the controversy alive by rallying behind the rapist, going so far as to write letters to the sentencing judge, seeking leniency on his behalf. The letters were posted on a local blog, WBRC Teachers.
Perhaps the most disgusting letter was written by Erickson’s wife, Toni Erickson, a 15-year educator currently teaching at Ogemaw Heights High School. While her pleas on behalf of her husband may not be surprising, her suggestion that the victim was unaffected by the abuse is more than a little disturbing, particularly coming from a teacher.
“As for punishment, because I know that is something the community expects, hasn’t he been punished enough? He is losing a job he has held for 17 years and losing all future career potential as a teacher. …
“I have seen many delightful students who have been damaged by horrible events in their lives. While I acknowledge that Neal’s conduct with [the victim] was wrong, I do not believe he was damaged by Neal’s actions and I base my opinion on my personal interaction with [the victim], both before and after Neal’s actions. However [my daughter] very likely could be. Please don’t punish her by his absence in her life.”
So the real victim in the case is the rapist’s daughter, not the young student who was assaulted? This lady needs her head examined, and perhaps her teaching license permanently revoked.
There were other troublesome letters, as well.
Rose City Middle School English teacher Sally Campbell wrote to the court, “Please take into consideration his pleading guilty so as not to put this student through any more than what has already occurred.”
How charitable of the rapist to not force his victim to testify. Perhaps he deserves the keys to the city for that one.
“Although Neal has pleaded guilty to a single charge of criminal sexual conduct, evidence of this being a one-time incident reaffirms the fact that he is not a sexual predator,” wrote 4th grade teacher Marilyn Glover.
The abuse occurred over a 3-year period, according to various news reports. Without getting into the physics of it all, it’s highly unlikely it was a “one-time incident.”