POSTED: 3:03 a.m. HST, Oct 5, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 2:19 p.m. HST, Oct 5, 2012
CAMDEN, N.J. » Three teachers and two administrators at a New Jersey high school were arrested Thursday on charges stemming from allegations that the teachers had sexual relationships with students and that administrators covered it up.
Each of the five has been suspended from Triton High School in the Philadelphia suburb of Runnemede, and each could face at least five years in prison if convicted.
Prosecutor Warren Faulk said the school had the proper safeguards in place to prevent such conduct but the rules were ignored and a culture was allowed "where teachers thought they could get away with improper relationships with their students."
While cases of sex between students and teachers are not uncommon, having three in one school at the same time is unusual, Faulk said.
"These charges constitute individual personal, moral, legal and ethical failure," Faulk said.
The teachers — all men in their late 20s or early 30s — are accused of striking up relationships with female students during the 2011-2012 school year.
According to court documents, math teacher Dan Michielli, 27, of Blackwood had intercourse with a student multiple times during the school year. He is charged with official misconduct, sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal sexual conduct.
Gym teacher and boys' soccer coach Nick Martinelli, 28, of Cherry Hill is charged with official misconduct involving an 18-year-old. He allegedly touched and kissed the girl when she was a student and had intercourse with her after she graduated in June. Faulk said sex-crime charges could not be filed against him because the alleged victim consented and was 18 at the time of the alleged sexual contact.
Math teacher and girls' track coach Jeff Logandro, 32, of Blackwood is charged with official misconduct, criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a child. A court filing says he inappropriately touched a female student.
Authorities say a student, not one of the alleged victims, told a substitute teacher in April that teachers were "hooking up" with students. Authorities say the substitute teacher then told Principal Catherine DePaul.
Prosecutors say DePaul met with the student who told her he'd been to one of the teacher's homes with a girl who was involved with him and had seen explicit text messages they had exchanged. Authorities say that DePaul asked her to write an account of what she had heard and that Assistant Principal Jernee Kollock stayed with the student to help her write the statement — and make it seem less serious.
Around the same time, Faulk said, DePaul learned one of the teachers had driven an alleged victim and another student to Ocean City in violation of district policy. But, he said, the teacher was merely reprimanded.
Faulk said neither administrator contacted authorities. Both were charged with official misconduct.
Faulk said DePaul later said she wished she had been more concerned for the students than the teachers.
The defendants either could not be reached or did not return messages left Thursday afternoon by The Associated Press. All five are due in court Oct. 11.
The teachers were suspended by Black Horse Regional School District last month; the administrators were suspended Thursday. Superintendent John Golden said in a statement that the district was cooperating with authorities, notifying families of students of what allegedly happened and offering counseling.
CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, The Associated Press reported erroneously that a prosecutor said rape charges could not be brought against three defendants because the alleged victims were above the legal age of consent. One student with whom one of the defendants is alleged to have had sexual intercourse was under the age of consent, and a sexual assault charge was filed in that case. In addition, the AP erroneously paraphrased the comments of a prosecutor when he said the circumstances were unusual. The prosecutor did not characterize the situation as a case of three sexual assaults by teachers at one school. Only one of the cases involves a sexual assault charge.