U.S. Army: Schepansky No Special Forces Major
Plymouth-Canton school district has fired military history teacher Ray Schepansky.
The Plymouth-Canton Community Schools' board made the 5-0 decision in a closed meeting last week, district officials confirmed. Two board members were absent. The specific reason for the firing is not clear.
Plymouth-Canton Schools spokesman Frank Ruggirello Jr. said the district would have no further comment.
What is clear: Schepansky, 53, earlier pleaded not guilty to one count of carrying a concealed gun without a permit. He was arrested on the long driveway leading to Plymouth High School on April 14 and police recovered a handgun from his car, along with bullets.
It's also clear, from school district documents obtained by Canton Patch, that Schepansky lied about his military history when he applied for his job almost 12 years ago.
On his application to teach at Plymouth-Canton Schools, he claimed to be a U.S. Army Reserve captain, a Special Forces member and a Ranger. But the highest rank he achieved, according to U.S. Army officials, is sergeant first class. He was never a reservist or in the Special Forces, according to U.S. Army officials. Schepansky has held a Michigan teaching certificate since 1996, according to state records. He was approved for tenure on June 8, 2004.
Inconsistencies of his military career are apparent among documents in Schepansky's job application on file at the school district. One document, which puzzled Army officials, states Schepansky was promoted to U.S. Army Reserve captain six years after he left the military.
Schepansky "left the Army after 17 years and one day of service as a Sergeant First Class. Did not retire," wrote Ray Gall, a U.S. Army spokesman based at Fort Knox, KY, in an email to Canton Patch. More to the point, "Suspicions of this guy not being a Major or a Special Forces officer are correct," he wrote.
Contradictions in Schepansky's teaching application, released after a Freedom of Information Act request, include:
- His Feb. 27, 2000 cover letter, which states he was at that time a U.S. Army Reserve captain.
- His resume, submitted at the same time, which states he had served in the U.S. Army as a "Senior Sergeant" and Ranger instructor.
- The district's job application form, on which he answered "no" to the question of whether he was a Reservist, but added a note saying "Please see Special Order."
- Claims in his employment history that he'd retired from the U.S. Army with "supervisory and instructional" experience.
The U.S. Army ranks include enlisted soldiers (from private first class to sergeant major), warrant officers and officers (from second lieutenant to general). There is no such rank as "senior sergeant."
Schepansky has not responded to requests for an interview; his attorney, Rick Convertino, has not returned multiple calls and previously has refused requests for a face-to-face interview with Schepansky regarding his military history details.
"Why would his military record be germane to his case, as to whether or not he had a gun in his car at the time he was stopped by police?" Convertino said on June 14, when leaving a court appearance for Schepansky.
Convertino did confirm at that time that Schepansky was in the U.S. Army, but not a commissioned officer.
Arrest brings military records' scrutiny
But Convertino declined a request for his client's signature in order to independently verify Schepansky's military records through the National Archives and Records Administration, which holds such documents. He said however that the military records posted by blogger Jonn Lilyea were not accurate. U.S. Army officials confirmed that Lilyea's documents came from the National Archives.
It is a federal offense to falsely claim to be a military officer and use that to benefit financially or in other ways. Those convicted of such a crime could face up to three years in prison or be fined, the law states, although U.S. Justice Department guidelines allow for less punishment, such as probation.
Schepansky's military record would be investigated only if school or police officials made such a request, according to an FBI spokeswoman, who said such requests are evaluated on a "case-by-case basis."
John Anthony, a Canton resident who served as a sergeant in the U.S. Marines and is currently a township trustee, retired from the FBI after 25 years as a special agent. He said he recalled receiving only one such request throughout his career.
Canton police did not have access to Schepasnky's military records at the time of his arrest, according to a department spokesman, who said the records would not likely be investigated without a request from school officials.
Plymouth-Canton administrators have declined to comment publicly about Schepansky since his arrest.
A good teacher
No school officials or students interviewed by Canton Patch since Schepansky's arrest have suggested he was a bad teacher.
More than 1,300 people are following a Facebook page supporting the teacher, titled Free Schepansky, which is used to sell T-shirts and other items to raise money for legal fees and share news of the court case.
Lilyea said parents and students should know that the man they think is a U.S. Army major or Special Forces hero lied about his record.
But for some Schepansky fans, the news makes no difference.
"That's weird," said former student Matt Davison in a phone interview. Davison is a 2009 Plymouth-Canton Education Park graduate who took Schepansky's military history class as a sophomore. He echoed an opinion that seems to be shared by many on the Free Schepansky Facebook page, saying it "doesn't change the way I look at him at all … He was a great guy. I was honored—regardless of all the crap going on now—I was honored to have him as a teacher."
Such attitudes disappoint Lilyea.
"The guy had a perfectly honorable career," Lilyea said. "But just by reading through the (Facebook) comments you get the sense his students think he's something more than he is. What he really is is enough to be proud of, and if he is an outstanding teacher there's absolutely no reason to embellish his career. He has life experience that would enrich his students' experiences."
Schepansky is scheduled for an appearance in Third Circuit Court on Sept. 28 for the single gun charge, a 5-year felony; the Wayne County Prosecutor's office has asked the court to reinstate gun-related charges from the same April 14 incident, dropped at an earlier court date.