Regarding children being abused by trusted adults in the school, some Michigan parents are making a statement about the safety of their children. They are exiting the building in droves. The school is receiving a vote of no confidence.
On July 10, former Rose City Middle School teacher and former Michigan Education Association President Neal Erickson was sentenced to 15-30 years in prison for first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He molested a fourteen year old student.
His former co-workers felt the abuse of this eighth grader was an isolated incident and he wouldn’t prey on any others now. The seven teachers (actively employed and retired) and one school board member publicly supported him at his sentencing hearing.
They were not supporting the victim or his family.
Retired teacher Harriet Coe weighed in with her letter: “Neal has plead guilty for his one criminal offense but he is not a predator. This was an isolated incident. He understands the severity of his action and is sincere in his desire to make amends.”
“Neal made a mistake,” said retired Middle School teacher 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.”
… know that no one has done more for kids, his school, and his community than Neal Erickson…
I am asking that Neal be given the absolute minimum sentence, considering all the circumstances surrounding this case. I am also hoping that he can stay remanded to custody in the Ogemaw County Jail and not be sent to a prison facility.
4th grade teacher Marilyn Glover: “Although Neal has pleaded guilty to a single charge of criminal sexual conduct, evidence of this being a one-time incident reaffirms the fact that he is not a sexual predator.”
These women seem to know and understand much about Neil Erickson all these years.
From the Ogemaw County Herald, we see a perfect storm of continuous and disgusting acts and behavior:
Erickson sentenced to 15-30 years in prison By Tim Barnum
Attorney Mike Juarez, who represented Erickson, challenged the Michigan Department of Corrections’ sentencing recommendations during sentencing in an attempt to receive downward departure for Erickson. However, Circuit Court Judge Michael Baumgartner disregarded the challenges.
Juarez contended that the victim, a student who was 14 years old when the sexual incidents occurred, did not suffer severe psychological damage due to the encounters, referencing two recorded interviews, one with the Michigan State Police during the investigation last fall.
“I think the victim, to me, sounded like a well-adjusted, confident young man,” he said.
The abuser – Neil Erickson – also allowed his lawyer to claim this farce: “He didn’t use his authority as being a teacher to get him there,” he said. Making this story seem impossible, the victim’s family home was vandalized days after the sentencing- the garage set on fire with a message written on the wall.
Erickson worked for the West Branch/Rose City school district for 17 years.
The Ogemaw Herald issued an editorial last week supporting the school and adding fuel to the fire – disrespect of parents’ choice and competence in order to get their children out of a toxic environment to homeschool them:
In the end, just as important as the children’s safety is that they get the best education they can get. Sure, homeschooling might seem like a good idea, but there are reasons schools exist. Not all parents are qualified to teach their children — and many more work full-time. Drastic lifestyle changes may be needed in order for homeschooling to become a reality, and such decisions should be carefully considered.
Not only that, but pulling your kids from the district only to send them just as far away to another seems more like a decision made out of spite than because it’s best for the kids.
The school population is much reduced, as reported by Fox News:
“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.”
Rather than lamenting his hands are tied, Cwayna might want to consider changing a school environment where children aren’t safe and to put it kindly – ‘put up and shut up’ is the mantra in the teachers lounge. The school board was most definitely concerned about losing money children. But they went with this gamble of keeping the teachers safe.
Should the district pursue the termination of these six teachers, this course of action comes with risks and financial responsibilities for which the district must find the necessary funds. Should tenure charges be filed against these teachers, the bottom line is this: the very best case scenario is an additional cost of approximately half of a million dollars to the district.
Fox News reported this is the school district’s forecast for not doing anything (except motivating at least 87 of the school district children’s parents):
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 the judge sentencing Erickson had a clear view of the situation and made this statement at the sentencing:
“I’m appalled and ashamed that the community could rally around, in this case, you,”
“What you did was a jab in the eye with a sharp stick to every parent who trusts a teacher.”
Indeed, Neal Erickson showed an ugly underbelly of the school system, along with his former co-workers and many in the community.