In August and September of 2013 I wrote about Rose City Middle School (Michigan) teacher Neal Erickson (those articles are available here and here), convicted of raping a male student over three years. Erickson confessed and was eventually sentenced to 15-30 years in prison.
So Erickson was convicted and got a substantial sentence. What’s the problem?
Initially, the problem was that a number of teachers, and at least one member of the local school board, wrote letters of support for Erickson and showed up to support him at his sentencing. Their letters, in large part, minimized his crimes.
The school board compounded their problems by mandating “ethics training” for every teacher in the district, as though there were a need to teach them that serial homosexual rape of students is out of bounds for teachers. And the school board member that supported Erickson–Mike Egan–has been unrepentant. There is a recall effort underway to unseat Egan.
Amazingly, many teachers and other members of the community have harassed, and continue to harass, the family of the victim, the Janczewski family. How? Among other things, they burned down their garage, which I suspect is a fairly common union tactic in Michigan.
The school board took no action against the teachers supporting Erickson, who before the discovery of his crimes, was the president of the state teacher’s union. Keep in mind, gentle readers, that in supporting Erickson, they were not dealing with an ambiguous situation. There was no question whatever about Erickson’s guilt, and this was not a one-time, weakness-of-the-flesh mistake, but serial rapes over three years. I addressed this in the first article on this case:
These teachers have first amendment rights, but as Mr. Janczewski notes, their actions may well have consequences. I am certainly careful about how I exercise my rights under the First Amendment. At the least, they used questionable judgment in not only writing those letters–they are public documents–but in their presence at the sentencing. I speak of this particular case. There are certainly situations when it would be entirely appropriate for teachers to support a colleague. But any professional teacher must know that while they can offer private emotional support to another fallible human being, there are some offenses that absolutely cannot be excused. Appearing to publically support anyone who has admitted and been convicted of those offenses is also a betrayal of children, their parents, and the necessary integrity of teachers. It is surely not in the same league as child molestation, but publicly supporting a confessed and convicted child molester does incredible damage in many ways.
There have been consequences for the school district. A substantial number of parents have removed their children from the district, causing a serious financial deficit due to a lack of enrollment. But there is an additional problem; eagnews.org has the story:
The Michigan Education Association is going to arbitration to try to force the West Branch-Rose City school district to pay a former teacher who was convicted of molesting a student a $10,000 severance buyout.
The father of the victim is outraged, calling the union’s efforts on behalf of the sex criminal ‘ludicrous’ and saying any school money due to the teacher should go to his son, who is ‘out there trying to make it in this world all messed up.
The buyout was apparently not specific to Erickson:
On March 26, 2013 WB-RC officials offered a $10,000 buyout for any qualifying teacher who left the school district that year, an incentive superintendent Dan Cwayna said the district had used in the past to encourage needed staff reductions.
While its not clear when Erickson’s employment was terminated, the union’s action suggests he was still on the payroll when the buyout was offered and accepted it.
The school district declined to pay him the money, prompting the union’s action.
Considering the school district’s prior cowardice, this is a welcome action, however, the union is pushing it:
MEA UniServ Director Ron Parkinson acknowledged that the union is taking the case to arbitration on behalf of Erickson, but declined to discuss the case further.
‘We don’t make a practice of discussing any case. It’s based on contractual compliance, and that’s really all I can say,’ Parkinson told EAGnews Friday. ‘We filed for arbitration today.’
The union’s silence is understandable. There is no morally justifiable reason for pursuing public tax dollars for a teacher who committed one of the most heinous crimes against the public trust.
The Janczewski family is not impressed:
John Janczewski, father of Erickson’s victim, said his family can hardly believe the MEA is pursuing the special severance for a convicted child molester.
‘It’s completely ludicrous!’ Janczewski told EAGnews. ‘Are they nuts in the head? How can the union file a grievance and back a child molester? We’re very upset about it.’
Janczewski wasn’t surprised Parkinson didn’t want to discuss the severance grievance.
‘What are you going to say when you’re backing a child molester? I mean, this starts it all over again. It just sickens us,’ he said. ‘If anything, that money should go to my son, who is out there trying to make it in this world all messed up.’
The Janczewskis and their supporters have spent the last several months collecting signatures for a ballot proposal to recall school board member Mike Eagan, who sat with Erickson’s family at his sentencing this summer. Janczewski said he’s confident they’ll collect enough signatures to put the recall on the ballot next year.
‘The recall is really going good,’ he said. ‘I’m not exact on the total (number of signatures) yet, because we have so many papers out there. I expect to hit our total in the next three weeks.’
Janczewski said he’s now committed to doing anything he can to prevent Erickson from receiving the special severance.
‘We as a family in no way is going to let this happen. I mean, a child molester paid to molest a student?’ Janczewski said. ‘He doesn’t deserve it.’
‘I don’t think the union wants the publicity we’ll bring on this,’ he added.
Robert Stacey McCain has some pertinent comments:
If the American people can agree on nothing else, can’t we all agree — black or white, male or female, rich or poor, gay or straight — that it’s a very bad thing for teachers to have sex with students? And can’t we also agree that a middle-school teacher who has a three-year sex affair with a student beginning when the student was only 14 has thereby forfeited every ‘right’ and ‘benefit’ associated with his former taxpayer-funded employment in the public school system?
Can’t we agree that this is BATSHIT CRAZY?
It’s based on contractual compliance’? Can the Michigan Education Association cite the clause in Neal Erickson’s contract that authorized him to play hide-the-sausage with an eighth-grader?
Of course, I’m not a lawyer, but it would seem to me that violating one’s employment contract — and I’m pretty sure playing naked leapfrog with a 14-year-old boy constitutes such a violation — would forfeit any right to payment due under that contract. Is it too much to ask that members of the Michigan Education Association keep their hands out of the pants of middle school kids?
Mr. and Mrs. Janczewski recently appeared on The O’Reilly Factor, discussing the recent union action on behalf of Erickson. By all means, take the link and read the transcript.
I’m not willing to give the school district any real credit in this matter. They have done the right thing in denying the payment to Erickson, but that is hardly a matter of heroism or even of minimal adult judgment. After all, coming to this decision took substantial time and an enormous amount of international scorn and horrifically bad publicity, an ongoing recall campaign against Egan, and the loss of an enormous amount of money and prestige when a very large number of parents decided to remove their students from a school district populated by a substantial number of teachers who appear unwilling to protect children from child predators. Amazingly, one of those teachers is the wife of school board member Egan. Considering all of this, one might be forgiven for not thinking the school board to be paragons of ethical probity.
One would think the union would be smart enough to quietly allow a case that is such a public relations fiasco to fade from the public consciousness, but educator’s unions have never been known to care about ethics or the welfare of children when money and political power are at stake. It appears that the school board may, to at least some extent, have learned a few lessons, but it is without doubt too much to hope that a teacher’s union–and some of the teachers it represents–could do the same.
This is not surprising. People often make the mistake of thinking that organizations that purport to represent the interest of people have a conscience. They, like government, do not. While their spokesmen may profess to care very much about people, they care about them only as abstractions, concepts. Individuals and their suffering mean nothing to them. One might think that the teachers and their supporters–being individuals, not organizations–that publically aided Erickson and that committed arson against the family of his victim, and that continue to harass them, have consciences.
Obviously not. Batshit crazy indeed.