A teacher’s union in Michigan is fighting to get a $10,000 severance package for a convicted child molester whose case that drew outrage earlier this year when his former school colleagues pleaded with a judge to sentence him lightly.
Neal Erickson, 38, pleaded guilty in May to raping a young boy over the course of three years — from 2006 to 2009 — and was sentenced to 15-30 years in prison. The prison term came over the pleas of seven of Erickson's former fellow teachers at Rose City Middle School, including Sally Campbell, who said in a letter to the judge that “Neal made a mistake. He allowed a mutual friendship to develop into much more," according to The Ogemaw County Herald.
Circuit Court Judge Michael Baumgartner, saying he was "appalled and ashamed that the community could rally around" Erickson, sentenced him to the lengthy prison term, but FoxNews.com reported earlier this year that parents were furious. The decision by the Michigan Education Association to seek severance pay, reported by the Herald and EAGnews.org, is the latest example of teachers rallying around Erickson.
“It’s completely ludicrous,” the boy’s father, John 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.”
The union has acknowledged taking Erickson’s case to arbitration on behalf of the disgraced educator, but declined to elaborate.
“We don’t make a practice of discussing any case,” MEA’s Ron Parkinson told the website. “It’s based on contractual compliance and that’s really all I can say. We filed for arbitration [Friday].”
Janczewski said he’s now committed to do whatever he can to stop the delivery of the severance package, money that he claims should instead be destined for his son.
“We as a family in no way is going to let this happen,” he said. “I mean, a child molester paid to molest a student? He doesn’t deserve it. I don’t think the union wants the publicity we’ll bring on this.”
In September, The Herald reported that enrollment in the West Branch-Rose City School District was unofficially down 87students following a tumultuous summer in which angry parents blasted teachers for writing letters in support of Erickson. When the school board declined to take action against the teachers, many parents vowed to pull their kids out of the public schools, which have a total enrollment of roughly 2,000 students.
“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 in September. “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.”