Tuesday, August 20, 2013

School board defies citizens, refuses to fire six teachers for supporting a colleague who molested a student

Stephanie Janczewski
WEST BRANCH, Mich. – Members of the West Branch-Rose City school board had a difficult decision to make Monday, and they sided with the district’s employees over students, parents and taxpayers.

The bottom line is that the school board will not fire six teachers who recently wrote to the local court seeking leniency for a colleague who was convicted of sexually molesting a student.

Hundreds of parents and concerned citizens filed into the Ogemaw Heights High School auditorium to learn the fate of the six teachers who wrote in support for Neal Erickson, a local middle school teacher who admitted to molesting a male teenage student over several years.

A seventh teacher also wrote a letter in support of the convict, but that person has retired from the school district.

Erickson was sentenced to 15-30 years in prison last month, but the teachers who pleaded for a reduced sentence on his behalf – as well as a board member who sat with Erickson’s family in court – put themselves at the center of a public firestorm with their appalling behavior.

The parents of the victim, John and Lori Janczewski, mounted a public campaign calling for the teachers’ termination and the vast majority of the community rallied behind them in support. The Facebook page “Support the Janczewskis” quickly swelled to thousands, and their cause gained national media attention. The group is also working to recall Mike Eagan, the board member who sat with the Ericksons, from office.

Thursday night, dozens of the Janczewskis’ supporters greeted attendees at the high school with signs reading “Anyone who stands behind a child molester shouldn’t stand in front of a classroom” and “Support the children, not the offender.” Others carried signs to “Recall Mike Eagan,” and distributed surveys to gauge interest in opening a local branch of the Charlton Heston Academy charter school.

Inside, dozens of parents and students wore blue t-shirts bearing the message “When We Stand Together” across the front.  (more...)

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