On August 23, I posted an article titled “ Support for a Child Molester: Betrayal?” It is the story of Neal Erickson, a former middle school math teacher who, for more than three years, engaged in a sexual relationship with a middle school student–a male middle school student.
The relationship was eventually exposed when photos and video of Erickson and the child were posted on child porn websites on the Internet. Erickson–the past president of the Michigan teacher’s union–eventually pled guilty. In normal circumstances, the story would have, if not a happy ending, at least an ending that had some semblance of justice and closure for the victim’s family and the community. This is not a normal story, as I wrote in the original article:
Rather than the education community rallying around the Janczewski family, multiple teachers have actively supported the molester, who plead guilty and has already been sentenced to 15-30 years in prison. Not only was the family threatened, their home was set on fire.
Not only did many teachers write to the judge to beg for leniency, so did a sitting school board member: Mike Egan. The family only discovered this at the July 10 sentencing hearing.
Apart from school board member Egan, ten people, including seven teachers, wrote letters of support, begging for leniency for Erickson, and in some cases, sickeningly minimizing his crimes:
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.
The school board, after consultation with its attorney, decided not to take any action against the teachers involved–and certainly not the board member–primarily because they were afraid they’d be sued and it would cost some real money. The board also magnanimously allowed that “accommodations” would be made for parents who did not want their children in the classrooms of the teachers supporting Erickson, teachers who have, to my knowledge, shown not the slightest remorse.
The words of Oliver Cromwell are applicable:
You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!
As one might hope, justice seems not to have done with this school district. Fox News has the story:
Enrollment appears to be nosediving in a Michigan school district where several teachers publicly supported a former colleague who admitted having sex with a middle school student.
The student body count in the West Branch-Rose City district, in northeast Michigan is down unofficially some 87 students following a tumultuous summer in which angry parents blasted seven teachers for writing letters in support of former teacher Neal Erickson. The letters urged a judge to be lenient in sentencing Erickson, who admitted to sexual misconduct with an underage, male student from 2006 to 2009. When the school board declined to take action against the teachers, many parents vowed to pull their kids out of the public schools, which have a total enrollment of just over 2,000.
‘I can’t speculate as to why the students have left, but there were certainly parents who vocalized that they were pulling their children out of school because of the teacher’s support,’ West Branch-Rose City School Superintendent Daniel Cwayna told FoxNews.com. ‘We addressed the issue as best we could without infringing upon the teacher’s first amendment rights. There’s only so much we can do.
One might think the school board entirely feckless, but they have required that all teachers be required to take “ethics training.” This is commonly known as “shotgun supervision.” When one–or a specific few–have done something wrong, rather than actually deal with the one or the few, administrators treat everyone as culpable and subject them to “training” that will only serve to greatly diminish respect for those administrators while simultaneously insulting and angering non-offending, competent employees. It’s a self-inflicted lose-lose situation with repercussions beyond the walls of schools.
One also wonders about the very fitness of teachers actually deserving of such training to be anywhere near children. Of what will it consist? Glitzy Power Point presentations introducing the idea–obviously for some of these teachers for the very first time–that the homosexual rape of children is morally wrong and illegal to boot? One also wonders who would teach such concepts (and how), and how much they will be paid for such rare gems of wisdom? One particularly wonders if there are established companies serving schools and businesses in need of such advanced moral instruction? If so, God help us all.
I can think of one thing the school board, which is comprised of people who also have rights under the First Amendment, could do: unequivocally state that anyone publically supporting a confessed and convicted homosexual child predator is a deeply misguided, even unhinged, person who ought to be castigated and shunned by moral people everywhere. Even a “lite” version of that sentiment would be preferable to observing: “There’s only so much we can do.” Perhaps just a little more effort is in order.
On second thought, the school board is entirely feckless after all, and that kind of fecklessness has a monetary cost as well:
Lower enrollment will cost the district under the state’s funding formula. And it could get even worse, if other parents simply opt to keep their kids home on Sept. 25, when the official headcount is carried out. The school district stands to lose as much as $600,000 in state funding.
Fortunately Erickson supporters and enablers appear to be in the minority in a community still struggling with their bizarre and dumbfounding lack of a moral compass:
It’s absolutely appalling, these … teachers who wrote the letters. How someone can support a child molester … I don’t understand,’ Sam Cottle, a local resident with relatives who work in the school district, said in an article published by EAGnews. ‘None of these people have written a letter of support for the mom, dad, or son. What does that tell you?
Erickson’s family has certainly been harmed, but harmed by Erickson and the actions he chose–over and over–for more than three years, no one else. One can honestly and morally feel for them, even support them, but privately and in ways that do not sever the bond of trust that must ever remain between teachers, parents and the community. This is not hard to do for most, but it appears to be an insurmountable task for some:
Eagan has refused to resign, prompting opponents to mount a recall. But Eagan told the Detroit News that he was there to support Erickson’s family and had no regrets in doing so.
‘I would still support the family. That’s who I am,’ he told the newspaper.
I don’t know Egan, and even if I assume his motivations are honorable, he plainly lacks the adult judgment necessary to serve as a member of a school board. Reportedly, a recall effort is under way. Here’s hoping it is successful.
Lest any call me homophobic–the poor second cousin of unfounded charges of racism when one has no actual moral argument–I’ll leave it to readers to scour my writings for any signs of either. Suffice it to say that all race and homophobia cards are expired at this Internet ATM.
That said this situation is worsened by the homosexual nature of Erickson’s crimes. I do not, for a moment, suggest that all, or even most, homosexuals are child molesters. If anyone reading this article is that simplistic and obtuse, this scruffy little blog will not be a comfortable place for them and readers will not be understanding. We do not allow adults to engage in sex with children because–do I really have to explain it? Children have no ability, intellectually and morally, to engage in sex, particularly not with adults. And when an adult imposes what many would consider an abhorrent sexual map on a child, immeasurable harm–in virtually all cases–will be done.
I know some will argue that homosexuality is not a choice and some people are born gay just as most are born straight. Perhaps. Perhaps not. It is, however, unquestionable that children cannot make mature sexual choices and that when an adult is involved, there can be nothing approaching informed consent, only manipulation and predation.
Erickson’s attorney has claimed that the victim wasn’t really harmed, but such things aren’t like traffic accidents where a given vehicle is damaged or not, and if damaged, may be quickly, if expensively, repaired to function as new. Heterosexual sex with a child is damaging enough, and the damage may manifest throughout the lives of the victim and his family. Homosexual sex–particularly when the victim is not homosexual (and can have no real idea if he is or not)–adds another, potentially overwhelming, dimension of life-long destruction.
A simple statement of moral principal by the school board would at least start the community back on the road to comity. Something like: “It is morally acceptable to support human beings in pain, but absolutely unacceptable to publically support and to ask for leniency for a teacher who has admitted child rape, whose acts have been proved by compelling evidence, and who has been convicted of raping a child.”
Apparently, tragically, that’s too much to ask. The betrayal continues.
Where are the teachers who are mad about this Erickson? You know the ones who do have some moral compass. Where are they? Why aren’t they speaking up?
I am talking about the ones in the district. Not you, Mike.
Mike McDaniel said:
Understood. Other than a bit of noise in the local media, competent, professional teachers in that district are apparently keeping their heads low. Considering the behavior of some of their colleagues, one of whom is the wife of a member of the school board who obviously lacks morality, that may be the better part of valor.
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