WEST BRANCH, Mich. – Last month, former Rose City, Michigan pedophile and middle school teacher Neal Erickson was sentenced to 15-30 years in prison for molesting one of his students over the course of several years.
That should have been the end of the ugly debacle.
But several teachers who wrote letters of support for their pedophile colleague – as well as a West Branch-Rose City school board member who has publicly supported Erickson’s family – are now at the center of a public firestorm. WB-RC school officials held a special board meeting July 29 at the Ogemaw Heights School auditorium where numerous people from the community approached the podium to urge the school board to fire seven teachers who wrote the court in support of Erickson. They also called for the resignation of board member Michael Eagan, who sat with teachers and the Erickson family during the former teacher’s sentencing last month, the Ogemaw County Herald reports.
Many parents who spoke at the meeting threatened to remove their children from the district if teachers who supported Erickson are not fired, which could result in significant loss of per-pupil state funding.
On the other hand, district officials are attempting to determine if such terminations would violate teachers’ constitutional right to free speech. The firings could trigger lawsuits against the district for wrongful termination that likely would cost a minimum of $500,000 in legal fees to defend, the newspaper reports.
“It’s a huge decision, whichever road we go down,” WB-RC board president Jack Money said at the meeting. “Don’t underestimate how huge it is.”
If the district loses any potential civil lawsuits, the cost “could potentially run well over a million dollars and bring the district to its financial knees,” Superintendent Dan Cwayna said at the special meeting.
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