Michigan’s largest teachers union will force arbitration in an effort to compel a rural school district to pay a $10,000 severance buyout to a former teacher convicted of molesting a teen boy.
The disgraced teacher, Neal Erickson, had been a math and computer-education teacher at Rose City Middle School before he was convicted of having sex with the victim on multiple occasions. The sexual encounters began when the unidentified student was an eighth-grade student.
The boy’s father, John Janczewski, called the Michigan Education Association’s efforts to collect $10,000 for the convicted pedophile “ludicrous,” according to EAGnews.org. Janczewski notes that any money disbursed ought to go to his son, who is “out there trying to make it in this world all messed up.”
The criminal case against Erickson began when a seven-year-old photograph of the then-14-year-old boy was sent anonymously to the school board and superintendent. Details about what exactly was in the image are scant, but police concluded that the boy had sent it to Erickson in 2006.
The male in the photo, who is later graduated and attended Western Michigan University, told police that he and the pedophile teacher had a homosexual relationship.
There were about 10 encounters. They involved oral sex. They occurred at the teacher’s house.
According to EAGnews, the sexual relationship lasted a few years.
Erickson pleaded guilty to a single count of criminal sexual conduct. He was sentenced in July to 15 to 30 years in prison.
The police investigation into Erickson’s sex crimes began in October 2012, and it was then when he was placed on paid administrative leave.
In late March 2012, school district officials offered a $10,000 buyout for qualifying teachers who resigned that year. The buyout was a routine cost-cutting measure.
The union is arguing that Erickson was still employed in March 2012 and then later resigned. Implicit in the argument is that the child molester also meets the qualifications for the buyout. Thus, the union claims, Erickson should receive $10,000.
West Branch-Rose City school district superintendent Dan Cwayna declined to authorize the payment to Erickson.
“That was a decision the superintendent makes and at this point,” Cwayna told EAGnews, “I prefer not to get into the reasons.”
Union representative Ron Parkinson was similarly tight-lipped.
“We don’t make a practice of discussing any case,” Parkinson told the website. “It’s based on contractual compliance, and that’s really all I can say.”
Janczewski, the molested boy’s father, was a little more vocal.
“What are you going to say when you’re backing a child molester?” he asked incredulously.
Prior to Erickson’s sentencing, six current teachers and two retired ones penned letters to the presiding judge seeking leniency for their child-molesting colleague. The group – along with board member Michael Eagan – also sat with Erickson’s relatives during his sentencing hearing.
The letters painted a flattering picture of the convicted pedophile.
“I am asking that Neal be given the absolute minimum sentence, considering all the circumstances surrounding this case,” wrote concerned teacher Amy Huber Eagan, for example. Eagan, Michael Eagan’s wife, also asked the judge to send the child molester to the county lockup, not some real prison.
The judge, Michael Baumgartner, told the audience he was disgusted by the support shown by Erickson’s colleagues.
“I’m appalled and ashamed that the community would rally around, in this case, you,” the judge said.
Usually lackluster Rose City was a crazy scene after the sentencing hearing. The case created a lot of strife. An arsonist burned down the garage belonging to the Janczewski family.
The arsonist also spray-painted “YWP-ITY” on the side of the Janczewski house, notes Eagnews. Police say the letters are likely an acronym for “You will pay, I told you.”
The Janczewskis were among the most vocal residents pushing for the school board to remove the six current teachers and the school board member who showed support for Erickson.
At a summer school board meeting called to quell local furor, several parents promised to pull their kids from the school district unless the board immediately fired teachers who supported Erickson.
The school district opted to keep the teachers.
Meanwhile, John Janczewski continues to spearhead an effort to recall the school board member who sat with the child molester’s relatives in a show of support in open court.