PA Homepage reported that a teacher at Lehighton Area High School located at 1 Indian Ln, Lehighton, PA 18235, has been apprehended by law enforcement for allegedly attempting to solicit a minor during a human sex trafficking sting operation. The arrest has sent shockwaves through the local community, raising concerns about the safety and well-being of students under the care of educators.
The Lehigh County Drug Task Force conducted a joint operation on June 29 in South Whitehall Township aimed at combatting sex trafficking. Undercover officers, including a Homeland Security Task Force Officer, posted advertisements on popular "sex websites" as part of the operation. The officer posed as a 17-year-old girl who would be involved in the illicit activities along with a 14-year-old girl.
According to a police criminal complaint, the undercover officer was contacted by a man who believed he was communicating with the underage girls. Disturbingly, the individual, later identified as 55-year-old Michael James Feifel, a teacher at Lehighton Area School District (LASD), allegedly engaged in conversations and negotiations with the officer, agreeing on a price for specific sexual acts.
Law enforcement meticulously documented all conversations, capturing them in recordings. Feifel reportedly expressed his intention to meet the supposed minors and engage in the agreed-upon sexual acts. However, when he arrived at the designated location, he was greeted not by the anticipated young girls but by a swarm of police officers, who promptly took him into custody.
Authorities discovered that Feifel was carrying the exact amount of cash agreed upon for the illicit activities, further incriminating evidence against him. Additionally, his cellphone, which he used for communication with the undercover officer, was confiscated. Investigators confirmed that it was indeed the same device used for the conversations, in which Feifel believed he was interacting with minors.
News of the arrest has left the local community deeply disturbed and outraged. Residents of Lehighton expressed their anger and disappointment, particularly concerning the breach of trust by an individual tasked with educating and guiding their children. "These are the teachers that respond to our kids and teach our kids good from bad, and it certainly ain't happening now," said Joe Solt, a Lehighton resident.
In response to the incident, the LASD Superintendent's Office released a statement affirming their cooperation with the ongoing investigation. They emphasized that Feifel would not be involved in any coaching or teaching activities during the summer. The school district aims to ensure the safety and well-being of its students while taking the allegations against Feifel seriously.
Court documents reveal that this is not the first time Feifel has faced legal repercussions related to inappropriate conduct with a minor. Past charges of unlawful contact with a minor underscore the gravity of the allegations brought against him.
Today we want to delve deeper into the issue of grooming and sexual abuse within educational institutions. Joining us is Brian Kent, Esq., a prominent sexual abuse attorney based here in Pennsylvania. We will explore the legal options available to survivors and discuss how they can pursue justice by holding negligent schools accountable.
Darla Medina (DM): With the recent arrest of Michael James Feifel, a teacher at Lehighton Area High School, for attempted solicitation of a minor, the issue of sexual abuse within educational institutions has once again come to the forefront. As a sexual abuse attorney, can you shed some light on what survivors can do if they have been subjected to grooming or abuse by teachers or staff members in high schools?
Brian Kent (BK): Absolutely, Darla. Survivors of grooming and sexual abuse within educational institutions, such as high schools, have legal options available to seek justice and hold those responsible accountable for their actions. One avenue survivors can explore is filing a civil lawsuit against not only the individual perpetrator but also the institution that enabled the abuse to occur.
DM: Can you elaborate on what it means for an institution to enable abuse and how survivors can pursue legal action against them?
BK: Certainly, Darla. In cases of abuse within educational institutions, enabling can take various forms. It can involve negligence or failure to properly screen, train, or supervise employees, allowing predators to exploit their positions of authority. It can also include disregarding reports or complaints of abuse, which prevents victims from receiving the necessary protection and intervention.
Survivors who wish to pursue a civil case against the institution must gather evidence and demonstrate that the institution had knowledge of the abuse or should have known about it but failed to take appropriate action. They can work with an experienced sexual abuse attorney who can help them build a strong case, navigate the legal process, and seek justice on their behalf.
DM: It's crucial for survivors to have the support and guidance of an attorney during such challenging times. What advice do you have for survivors who may be considering taking legal action?
BK: First and foremost, I want survivors to know that they are not alone and that their voices matter. If you or someone you know has experienced grooming or sexual abuse within an educational institution, it is essential to reach out to a trusted sexual abuse attorney who specializes in these cases. They can provide the necessary support, legal advice, and representation throughout the legal journey.
Additionally, it's crucial for survivors to prioritize their well-being and seek appropriate counseling or therapy to address the emotional and psychological impact of the abuse. Remember, taking legal action is a personal decision, and survivors should take their time to consider their options and make choices that best serve their healing and pursuit of justice.
DM: Thank you, Mr. Kent, for shedding light on this important topic and providing valuable insights into the legal options available to survivors of grooming and sexual abuse within educational institutions. Your expertise is greatly appreciated.
BK: Thank you, Darla. It's been a pleasure to be here and raise awareness about this critical issue. I hope that by discussing it, we can encourage survivors to come forward, seek support, and hold accountable those responsible for their suffering.