(Courtesy of CantonPatch)
Ray Schepansky, the popular former Plymouth High military history teacher has been sentenced to two years of probation, with what one friend called “a litany of rules to abide by.”
After pleading guilty on Sept. 28 to a felony for having a firearm without a permit, he may be able to resume teaching, but not at Plymouth-Canton Community schools.
Frank Ruggerillo Jr., spokesman for the Plymouth-Canton district, said there isn’t much more to say about the matter.
“We are relieved and happy the situation is complete and behind us,” Ruggerillo said.
Schepansky, 53, was arrested on April 14 when he stopped his car for police on the driveway leading to Plymouth High. Canton Police removed a 9-milimeter Beretta from under his driver’s seat, along with two clips containing six rounds each. The district canceled classes for a day at the three-school campus and the case made national news.
Probation with conditions
Third Circuit Court Judge David J. Allen on Friday sentenced Schepansky to two years of probation and credit for 17 days in jail immediately after his arrest in April. Because Schepansky has no other criminal record, a jail sentence would have been limited to 90 days, by state law.
Schepansky can have no contact with Plymouth-Canton employees and is banned from district properties, rules related to teacher Elizabeth Benegas’s court testimony that Schepansky had said he wanted to kill associate principal Erin MacGregor.
|As part of the 2-year probation, Judge Allen ordered Schepansky to attend anger-management training and undergo a psychological evaluation.
Also, Schepansky must:
Teaching certificate valid
Schepansky remains certified by the state of Michigan through June 2012 to teach political science and history to students in grades 6 through 12. The felony conviction will not prevent him from teaching in other districts but state law requires that he disclose the judgment to a potential employer. A superintendent and school board of the district must agree in writing to hire him as well as notify the state superintendent of public instruction.
“I don’t know anything about that process,” said Schepansky’s attorney, Rick Convertino, in a phone interview Monday. “If he asks me to assist him, I surely will.”
Convertino said he is convinced that Schepansky never intended to harm anyone and that, “as a parent of children at that school and as a parent in general, I’ve been active in my children’s educational experience since we’ve been here. Ray Schepansky is not a person I would hesitate to have my children in a classroom with.”
Convertino said during the case, he found no one, “not even the most ardent Schepansky detractor, who said Ray Schepansky is anything but an outstanding educator.”
Case exposed military record
Convertino said in a phone interview Monday that news of Schepansky’s military fabrication hurt the case, calling it “all the more unfortunate” because his actual U.S. Army record was a good one. Beyond that, the likelihood that the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office would aggressively pursue reinstating the three gun charges dropped early in the case was clear — particularly the charge related to having a weapon on school property.
Arguing that point alone, Convertino said, could have extended the case by a year or more.
“In the end, he chose the honorable route,” Convertino said of Schepansky’s decision to plead guilty to carrying a firearm without a permit and formally resign from the district, though he’d already been fired. “The tragedy of all this is the one thing in life he fell into with great gusto and passion is teaching he’s been prevented from doing.”
Friends of the former teacher expressed relief that the case ended and some disappointment over the outcome on the Facebook page dedicated to him, Free Schepansky, which since April garnered more than 1,300 followers, not all of them fans.
Friend Bonnie Richards wrote a note indicating she was unhappy at the sentence, which she attributed to being “all because someone was offended. God forgive them because I am struggling with it all.”
Later on that page, she called the judgment “a litany of rules to abide by” adding it was “[u]nfortunate that a few so called co-workers/friends can ruin someone so easily. Shame on them all. I hope they sleep well at night. Especially those he helped so willingly asking nothing in return. (Mr. Thomas),” referring to Plymouth-Canton Educational Park teacher Scott Thomas.
Thomas and Schepansky were hired by the district in the same year and became friends who often ate lunch together at the school and socialized after school. Thomas said he had no comment about the case.
As for reports Schepansky might move to Tennessee, Convertino said, “I think what Ray is very interested in doing is starting anew and I think he’s going to pursue opportunities elsewhere, outside of the area so he can get a fresh start and have a fresh environment and atmosphere to pursue other opportunities and objectives.”