Residents in a speck of a rural farm town in northern Michigan want to recall a school board member and fire several teachers who showed support for a local middle school teacher convicted of having sexual relations with an eighth-grade student.
The teacher, Neal Erickson, had been a science and computer-education teacher at Rose City Middle School. He was convicted of having sex with an eighth-grade student on multiple occasions, reports The Detroit News.
The criminal case against Erickson began when a seven-year-old photograph of a 14-year-old boy was sent anonymously to the school board and superintendent. Details about what exactly was in the image are scant, but police concluded that the boy had sent it to Erickson in 2006.
The male in the photo, who is now a 21-year-old student at Western Michigan University, told police that he and the pedophile teacher had a homosexual relationship in 2006. At the time, the student was an eighth grader.
There were about 10 encounters. They involved oral sex, reports WSMH FOX 66. They occurred at the teacher’s house.
Erickson pleaded guilty to a single count of criminal sexual conduct. He was sentenced in July to 15 to 30 years in prison, reports the Ogemaw County Herald.
Prior to his sentencing, six current teachers and two retired ones penned letters to the presiding judge seeking leniency for their child-molesting colleague. The group — along with board member Michael Eagan — also sat with Erickson’s relatives during his sentencing hearing.
The letters painted a flattering picture of the convicted pedophile.
“I am asking that Neal be given the absolute minimum sentence, considering all the circumstances surrounding this case,” wrote concerned teacher Amy Huber Eagan, according to the County Herald. Eagan, who is board member Michael Eagan’s wife, also asked the judge to send the child molester to the county lockup, not some dangerous real prison.
“Neal made a mistake,” wrote 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.”
“Neal has plead [sic] guilty for his one criminal offense but he is not a predator,” teacher Harriett Coe swore. “This was an isolated incident. He understands the severity of his action and is sincere in his desire to make amends.”
The judge, Michael Baumgartner, told the audience he was disgusted by the support shown by Erickson’s colleagues.
“I’m appalled and ashamed that the community would rally around, in this case, you,” the judge said. “What you did was a jab in the eye with a sharp stick to every parent who trusts a teacher.”