You know that expression, "things are going to hell in a hand basket?" Yes, they are.
Where else can you find a teacher who admits to raping a child, takes pictures of it and puts them into circulation on the Internet, cops a plea bargain - and at his sentencing, gets the full support of his fellow colleagues and union members, as well as school board members, in asking the judge for leniency?
In October 2012, Lori Janczewski was diagnosed with cancer. Days later they received more heartbreaking news.
“Four days after my wife was diagnosed, a state trooper came out to our house and we found out our son was molested,” said Janczewski, who is also fighting his own battle with Multiple Sclerosis. “Somebody sent an anonymous email with pictures of my son to the board of education and the superintendent.”
The email and pictures proved [Neal] Erickson “was a predator and he groomed our son to molest him,” he said.
Someone also posted the pictures online.
“They never found out who sent the emails and brought it to the surface,” Janczewski said. “On the one hand, we’re very appreciative … but on the other hand, we’re angry. Why didn’t they come forward sooner? Why did they put the pictures on a porn site?”
Yet despite the horrible news, the family finally had an explanation for their son’s troublesome behavior.
Their son had grown increasingly distant from the once close-knit family through his early teens, as Erickson, his middle school math teacher, manipulated the young boy into a twisted relationship that lasted from Aug. 2006 to Aug. 2009. The victim frequently lashed out at his father and the tension tore their family apart.
Lori Janczewski worked with Erickson at Rose City Middle School and had asked him for insight into the boy’s rage, but he shrugged her off. The discovery that Erickson had molested their son brought a new sense of clarity after years of turmoil and anguish, John said.
The teachers will not - and, frankly, cannot - be fired for 1st Amendment issues like speaking on behalf of their fallen colleague. But it is outrageous.
“Neal made a mistake,” teacher Sally Campbell wrote to the judge, according to the Ogemaw County Herald. “He allowed a mutual friendship to develop into much more. He realized his mistake and ended it years before someone anonymously sent something in to the authorities which began this legal process.”
That is like saying, "Well, he is a serial killer, but he stopped after only killing five people, and doesn't that count for something?" I love the "mutual friendship" phrase, which attempts to make the child complicit in his own molestation. Ended it years before? Why - did his victim get too old for his tastes?
“Neal has pled (sic) guilty for his one criminal offense but he is not a predator,” teacher Harriett Coe wrote, according to the Herald. “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.”
One incident? I would not be so quick to assume that, if pictures were taken and shared, lady. Pedophilia is not a transitory disorder, where you "catch" it and after a while, it goes away. And taking a plea bargain is not a "desire to make amends."
Evidently, the judge is sane.
Judge Michael Bumgartner told Erickson he was “appalled and ashamed that the community could rally around, in this case, you,” according to the Herald.
“What you did was a jab in the eye with a sharp stick to every parent who trusts a teacher,” he said shortly before sentencing Erickson to 15-30 years in prison.
And what a community it is.
Until Erickson’s sentencing, the family members were “very private people,” Janczewski said. But the teacher support letters convinced them the problem was much larger than Erickson.
They shed their anonymity to demand the teachers and Eagan are held accountable, and the vast majority of the community rallied around them in support.
But obviously someone does not support the Janczewskis.
Days after the sentencing, the family awoke to a fire in their garage that nearly spread to their house. Someone had also scrawled the letters “ITY-YWP” on the side of their home, presumably a crude acronym for “I told you, you will pay.”
State police have offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, and have several leads, Janczewski said, but haven’t definitively linked the crime to the Erickson case.
“I just can’t wait till they catch the person,” Janczewski said. “They could have killed my family.”
Some of the teachers who supported Erickson have heckled Lori Janczewski at work, according to her husband. The couple reported two teachers to the police, but the abuse has already taken its toll on her physical and mental health, Janczewski said.
The good news is that as this story has gotten more publicity, more people have rallied around the family.
But the judge is right - the willingness of Erickson's colleagues to rally behind him speaks to the lack of credibility in the ethics and morals of these teachers. Just as police officers are said to have a "thin blue line" in keeping each other's misdeeds out of sight, so, too, I suspect that teachers have a "thin chalk line." Readers of this blog will recall I had reported that LAUSD teachers actually threw a going away party for one its members heading off to jail to serve time for the sexual abuse of one of his students.
Coincidentally, I had a conversation with a teacher about teachers engaging in inappropriate behavior with students, and it happens more frequently than reported, because school districts will allow a misbehaving teacher to "retire" before criminal activity is revealed, or even pursued, so as to limit the liability of the school district. Think of it as akin to dioceses shuffling pedophile priests - remove the problem, don't address it.
I think that pedophiles are cunning as predators - but psychologically immature, especially among female teachers and Catholic priests. I hate to say that, but both professions can attract someone who has sexual confusion and seeks a "sheltering" career, one that allows them to "fly under the radar" while appearing humble, whether aspiring to nothing more than the "best 3rd grade teacher" or a "simple parish priest." Throw into the mix a sexually precocious teenager - which groups like Planned Parenthood help to foster - and the immature pedophile can begin convincing themselves that they and the victim "love each other" and "fulfill each other." In their minds, it is a great romance that no one else can understand, but only they and their victims "understand" it, because the heart wants what the heart wants - and never sees it for the tawdry and sick crime that it is.