I ran across this story earlier in the week and could not believe what I was reading. The Janczewski family of Rose, Michigan is losing their faith in God. It's not because John's wife, Lori, has cancer, or that he is suffering from multiple sclerosis. No, it's because their 8th-grade son was horrifically molested by a male teacher. But that's not the end of the story --- or the worst part.
John and Lori were made aware of the molestation when someone anonymously posted information and pictures to an online porn site. Now they had an explanation for their son's troublesome behavior. But their relief at having an answer turned to pain as they realized that the teacher had manipulated the young boy into a twisted relationship that lasted from 2006 to 2009. The victim frequently lashed out at his father and the tension tore their family apart. Naturally, the family sought legal action, trusting that they would find justice for their son. What they didn't expect was the backlash they are receiving post-trial.
While Neal Erickson, the middle school teacher who molested their son, was sentenced to 15-30 years in prison for his crime, it seems that six teachers and one School Board member thought the whole matter was a little overblown. When the Janczewskis showed up for the sentencing phase of the trial, they were astounded to find that the teachers and Board member were supporting Erickson. There were also 10 letters written to the Judge in favor of Erickson; some by current teachers.
According to a local newspaper and the Education Action Group Foundation, who obtained the contents of the letters through the Freedom of Information Act, there were several who sought to downplay the actions of the offending teacher:
“Neal made a mistake,” wrote one fellow teacher. “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.”
Another said, "I am asking that Neal be given the absolute minimum sentence, considering all the circumstances surrounding this case .... My advice would be to use him! He is a certified teacher and could be used for tutoring in the jail, running a GED program, or assisting in whatever education related programs there is need for. Allow him to share his knowledge and skills in a useful, viable, and meaningful way.”
Still another wrote, “Neal has plead (sic) 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. He has been candid and conveyed his action to his family, friends and co-workers.”
To all of these "bleeding hearts", I would ask this: Do you think it is appropriate for a teacher to have such a "friendship", regardless of whether he realizes his mistake or not? And "Use him!" You make him sound like some Teacher of the Year candidate! And I hate to tell you this, but child molesters are not highly valued in the prison system. And finally, how can you know it was an isolated incident? That's what Jerry Sandusky of Penn State would like you to believe, too.
To his credit, the Judge admonished those who stood behind the convicted molester. "I’m appalled and ashamed that the community could rally around, in this case, you,” he said. “What you did was a jab in the eye with a sharp stick to every parent who trusts a teacher,” he added.
As if the public display of support for the teacher, rather than the child victim, wasn't enough, the Janczewski family has recently been harassed with threatening phone calls, intimidating graffiti spray-painted on their house, and someone went as far as to attempt to burn their house down in the middle of the night ... with the family asleep inside. To add insult to injury, a church in the family's neighborhood posted bail for the child molester. We are all called to forgive, just as God forgives us. But that does not mean we excuse our own, or another's transgression, or expect to suffer no consequences.
The controversy has divided the community, although Mr. Jancewski says his family has received support from the majority of their fellow citizens. But he states that the message the teachers and the School Board member are sending has shaken his faith in the safety of the community's children. He and his family want the six teachers fired and the Board member removed from his position.
I have to admit that I cannot understand the logic behind anyone supporting a man who betrayed the trust of the community and admitted to raping an innocent child. And I don't care if it is his "one criminal offense". This one is one too many. He will have to gain his forgiveness from God, because it would be hard for me to excuse his actions and ever believe he could deny himself again.
And what about the consciences of those teachers? Have they been so "unionized" that they see themselves separate from the children that are entrusted to them daily? I come from a long line of teachers in my family, and I daresay they all saw their role as bigger than Educator; there was a time when teachers felt their job description included "protector" and "guardian" of the children in their care. What a sad commentary on the state of our culture when one of our most honored professions can be drug through the mud with vile accusations, and there are those who will stand by the accused and defend him.
UPDATE: On Monday night the West Branch-Rose City School Board voted not to fire the group of teachers who supported their pedophile colleague. Citing the First Amendment, the Board revealed the real reason for their decision: fear of costly civil suits by the teachers and their union. The mother of the victim said she could overlook the teachers' conduct if it hadn't been for the addendum they added to their letters in support of Neal Erickson. They wrote "that no harm had been done to my son since he was a straight-A student. How dare they? They have no idea of the hell we lived in while my son was going through these years of molestation." For a more complete report on the aftermath of this decision, you can click here.
Luke 17:2 "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin."