Teachers won’t be fired for backing molester

When a Michigan math teacher faced sentencing for molesting an 8th-grade student in July, six teachers urged leniency in letters to the judge. A West Branch-Rose City school board member, married to a teacher, sat with molester Neal Erickson’s wife, also a teacher in court.

“Neal made a mistake,” writes (Sally) Campbell. “He allowed a mutual friendship to develop into much more. He realized his mistake and ended it years before someone anonymously sent something 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,” writes Amy Huber Eagan.

.  . .“Neal has plead (sic) guilty for his one criminal offense but he is not a predator,” writes (Harriet) Coe. “This was an isolated incident. He understands the severity of his action and is sincere in his desire to make amends.”

One letter said the boy hadn’t been affected much by the molestation, which occurred over three years. Another said Erickson had been punished by losing his job.

Judge Michael Baumgartner, who sentenced Erickson to 15 to 30 years in prison, said he was “appalled and ashamed that the community could rally around” a child molester. “What you did was a jab in the eye with a sharp stick to every parent who trusts a teacher,” Baumgartner added.

The boy’s parents, John and Lori Janczewski, demanded that the teachers who supported their son’s molester be fired; they’ve started a recall campaign against the board member.

The board rejected firing the teachers at this week’s meeting, saying it would bring on a free-speech lawsuit. The board president read a letter signed by the six teachers:

“Dear community, criminal sexual conduct is a serious crime we do not condone. The safety of our students is our foremost concern. Our letters were never intended to cause any harm. We know the young man’s family is suffering, and empathize with their pain. It is our sincerest hope that the community will move forward for the sake of the students.”

Several parents threatened to pull their children out of WB-RC schools and send them to a charter school.

The family has been threatened for speaking out against the teachers, the victim’s father said on the Glenn Beck radio show. Their garage was fire bombed in the middle of the night and the letters “YWP” and “ITY” were spray painted on their house.  John Janczewski thinks that may stand for “you will pay” and “I told you.”

I don’t think the board can fire teachers for supporting their former colleague — and his wife, who’s still teaching in the district. But teachers minimizing child molesting is shameful and appalling.

About Joanne


  1. Well, nothing speaks louder than the sound of footsteps walking out the doors of the schools…with those footsteps goes their tax dollars. While you can’t fire them for free speech, I sure don’t have to place my child in their care.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      “..I sure don’t have to place my child in their care. ”

      Unless there are seats available in a charter school or they can homeschool or they can afford to send their kids to private schools – then, yes, they do have to send their kid to this school.

      • perhaps it’s time for a little “civil disobedience” or maybe people have just been conditioned to believe they don’t have a choice…

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Either the teachers believe in the “he’s suffered enough” school of criminal justice–which would be awful–or they are holding their noses and trying to do a colleague a favor. That they think he deserves their efforts is also awful.
    Extremely bad PR for the district and, as usual, for public schools in general.
    I would suggest community shunning of the teachers who wrote letters. Got to get through to the adults who mold kids’ minds somehow.

    • Cardinal Fang says:

      I’d like to point out, just in case someone here might be confused by the rapist’s defenders, and not realize the severity of the rapist’s actions: This was not some ambiguous pats on the butt. The parents found out about the ongoing crime because an anonymous tipster pointed them to a website with videos of Erickson raping the victim. Ewww.

      Other teachers, you are defending someone who raped a student, filmed the rape, and put it up on the Internet? Seriously?

      • Cardinal Fang says:

        Also, I’d like to add that if someone says that a rapist who repeatedly raped a child, over a period of three years, and then put videos up on the Internet– if someone says that person is not a sexual predator, then they have a different definition of sexual predator than I do. Apparently his defenders believe that if he didn’t rape every child in his care, he can’t be a predator?

        • Sexual predators are also very good at choosing kids unlikely to tell – because they have no caring adults in the family and/or because of the child’s history/personality factors – and convincing adults that they are good guys; the process is called grooming. They are very good at creating an image that will give them the best access to kids upon whom they WILL prey.

          • Richard Aubrey says:

            With respect, we know about predators. So, almost certainly, do the teachers. The question is about the teachers and their letters.

      • There’s absolutely nothing unusual here. There is an odd part of the human psyche that kicks in when it’s a friend versus a stranger who is accused of child molestation – you get an astonishing amount of victim-blaming and minimization. Rallying around a child molester is a phenomenon that has been occurring for as long as there have been prosecutions of child molesters.

  3. My understanding is the family of the boy who was molested had their house fire bombed and spray-painted.

    There is no way I would put my child in that school.


  4. Foobarista says:

    “Moving forward” requires confronting the problem and dealing with it head-on. Figure out who did the firebombing, and try these creeps on a charge of domestic terrorism. Anyone in the union or school management who knew about the firebombing or molestation should be put in prison (and lose pensions, etc).

  5. Crimson Wife says:

    If the victim had been an older teen, I might be a bit more sympathetic to the notion that he simply made a mistake. But the girl was in 8th grade and presumably way under the legal age of consent.

    • Crimson Wife says:

      Just read the linked article and realized the victim was a boy rather than a girl. That is worse IMHO and even more reason to throw the book at the pervert teacher.

  6. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    Either these teachers should be in jail as accomplices, lose their licenses for failing to say something about a situation of which they were personally aware, or (let us be honest, more likely) they don’t actually have the faintest bleeping clue what the hell was really going on, when it stopped, or whether it was an isolated incident, and they should have just shut their traps.

    Even if it is the latter, that they would make public statements about matters with which they were utterly ignorant to a court should be enough to get them fired. And depending on the situation and Michigan law, it might even be perjury (though I doubt it).

    So I leave it to our brave educators: which is it? Are you affirmatively evil? Did you fail to fulfill your required duties? Or are you just so intellectually incompetent that you shouldn’t be trusted to teach a fish to swim?

    Those are the only options.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      I like the second and third.
      Another question is whether the Rose City district is representative of public schools in that many districts have half a dozen,or more, teachers like these apologists. Or it just happened to be the only one in the country.

    • Look, the education field is full of (may wenture dominated?) by the type of people who believe that everyone should get a trophy, and no one’s feelings should ever be hurt. Ever. For any reason.

      Add to that their personal relationship with the predator (hopefully completely unaware of his crimes…if not they should not only lose their credential, but go to prison.) and they lose perspective, and want to help. Not the type of person I’d want as a friend, but it doesn’t make them either dangerous or a bad teacher.

      • Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

        If they are making representations of fact to a judicial body regarding a case — such as asserting that something only happened once or that it ended at a certain point — they aren’t just trying to “help”.

        Ya wanna help a rapist? Talk about how good they are with your kids. Talk about their charity work. Talk about how they helped you recover from a car accident. Talk about how they spend hours after school working with stud… well, wait a second. Forget that one.

        Character references are fine — and I don’t necessarily think the teachers SHOULD be fired for making a character reference (though i hardly blame the parents for wanting to walk out). Talking about the case itself, though, in an attempt to influence sentencing, is problematic for the reasons I explained above.

      • Richard Aubrey says:

        If your first graf is correct,we have a problem.
        As to your last sentence, how do you know this? And I don’t mean dangerous in the sense you refer to first. Did they fail to connect obvious dots? What about their judgment? Are they too tribalistic–them against the rest?–to be trusted?
        I don’t think they can be fired–should is a different matter–but they should be shunned. In the old sense.

  7. Ann in L.A. says:

    The spray painting and firebombing of the family’s house suggests to me that there is a lot more to this story than is being covered in the media. The few times I have seen news being made, and the choices that local reporters make, has shown me that it’s mostly b.s., with the reporters taking the easy line instead of finding the truth.

    I’d love to know why tempers are so high here that someone thought a firebombing was called for. Something else must be going on.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      Reports are the father has MS and mom has cancer. Which means one if not both could be less than average spritely trying to get out of a burning house. Although I believe the report was the garage was damaged.