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Teachers, bosses charged in N.J. school sex scandal

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10/05/2012 06:33 PM
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Teachers, bosses charged in N.J. school sex scandal
[link to www.usatoday.com]

11:43AM EST October 5. 2012 - RUNNEMEDE, N.J. -- A sex scandal erupted Thursday at a high school here, and a top law enforcement official said a culture of permissiveness allowed male teachers to pursue sexual relationships with female students.

Three faculty members at Triton Regional High School -- math teachers Jeff Logandro, 32, and Daniel Michielli, 27, both of Blackwood, N.J.; and health instructor Nick Martinelli, 28, of Cherry Hill, N.J. -- allegedly engaged in sexual activity and other misconduct with separate members of last year's senior class.

And when the school's top administrators were told of the alleged activities, Principal Catherine DePaul and Vice Principal Jernee Kollock worked to protect the teachers rather than turn them in, authorities allege.

"It's obvious there existed a culture at Triton High School whereby teachers thought they could get by with improper relationships with their students and administrators turned a blind eye to evidence of these relationships' existence," Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk said Thursday at a news conference announcing charges against all five staffers.

The improper activity allegedly occurred from November to June of the 2011-12 school year, the prosecutor said.

"School policy prohibits teachers from socializing with students outside of school and communicating by phone or by text message, yet these teachers openly did both," the prosecutor's office asserted in an account of its two-month investigation.

"It is alleged that throughout the past school year, the defendants took a trip to the beach with the victims and exchanged sexually explicit text messages."

All three teachers are accused of official misconduct. Martinelli was also the boys' soccer coach and Logandro was the girls' cross country coach.

Logandro and Michielli face additional charges of criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a child because they are accused of engaging in sexual activity with girls younger than 18, the prosecutor said. Michielli also is accused of sexual assault.

DePaul, 55, of Woodbury, N.J., and Kollock, 39, of Williamstown, N.J., are charged with official misconduct. All five educators have been suspended.

According to the prosecutor, DePaul learned of the allegations in April from a substitute teacher who had been told by a pupil that teachers were engaging in sexual contact with students.