PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Two men who worked at a Catholic school in New Jersey were behind bars Wednesday, charged with sexual misconduct with female students.
Bergen County prosecutors said the men were chaperones on a 10-day student exchange trip to Germany in February, during which they allegedly had sex with students.
Teacher and football coach Michael Sumulikoski was accused of having sex with one student, while Artur Sopel, 31, vice president of operations, was accused of having sexual relations with two students on the trip.
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After the initial allegations were reported, another student came forward and said she also had sex with Sopel last year, authorities said.
In their first appearances since their arrest, both men pleaded not guilty before a judge on Wednesday to charges that they had sex with underage students.
CBS 2 spoke to the suspects’ attorneys on Wednesday.
“I can state categorically that nothing inappropriate, of a sexual nature took place – or any other nature took place – on this class trip to Germany, and he looks forward to confronting his accusers who have made these false allegations,” Sopel’s attorney, Ray Flood, said.
“My client is shocked at what has happened here and what these allegations are,” said Sumulikoski’s lawyer, Robert Galantucci. “I don’t believe that there is any basis for them.”
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A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark said the teachers have been suspended without pay and won’t be coming back.
Both have been charged with endangering the welfare of a child, while Sopel also faced charges of sexual assault and hindering apprehension.
Parents learning of their arrest were stunned.
“I just heard about it this morning. I am astonished. I am really astonished. I’m just quite upset and concerned now,” said Diane Felder.
Sopel was being held on $225,000 bail, while Sumulikoski was being held on $50,000 bail. They have been ordered to surrender their passports and have no contact with their victims.
Students said the young teachers had a reputation for being outgoing, and even flirty.
“I just see them all the time with them I guess,” said student Louis Carrero.
“I guess that was just their personality. They were always talking to everybody,” said student Anthony Cardetta.
Administrators were spending Wednesday meeting with students.
“Just to reassure them that this is a serious matter. We take everything seriously. We have followed all the procedures in place for reporting and cooperating with the authorities,” said Jim Goodness of the Newark Archdiocese.
Does this change your thoughts about sending your kids on school trips abroad? If guilty, what’s the appropriate punishment for these men? Leave a comment below…