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A Germantown Academy teacher had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student, police say

Prosecutors say Michael Cheatle began a sexual relationship with one of his students during her junior year at the school.

A teacher at Germantown Academy initiated a sexual relationship with a student in 2014, during the victim's junior year, according to investigators in Montgomery County.
A teacher at Germantown Academy initiated a sexual relationship with a student in 2014, during the victim's junior year, according to investigators in Montgomery County.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

A former teacher at Germantown Academy faces criminal charges after a woman reported to investigators in Montgomery County that he coerced her into a sexual relationship during her junior year at the elite suburban school.

Michael Cheatle, 37, was arraigned late Wednesday on institutional sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor, endangering the welfare of a child, and related offenses, according to court records. He was released on $100,000 unsecured bail, and ordered by Magisterial District Judge Deborah A. Lukens to have no contact with the woman.

Cheatle’s attorney, Paul Mallis, said Thursday that the Chester Springs resident “vehemently denies these allegations.”

“We’re saddened and disheartened that he’s in this position,” Mallis said. “As soon as we learned these allegations were made, we surrendered on the warrant without any incident and we look forward to our day in court.”

The woman, who is now 23, contacted county detectives in July, telling them that Cheatle initiated an 18-month sexual relationship with her in 2014, his first year as a teacher at Germantown Academy, according to the affidavit of probable cause for his arrest. At the time, she was 17.

Their relationship lasted through the summer after the former student’s junior year, authorities said, and included several instances of sexual activity, both on and off the campus of Germantown Academy in Fort Washington.

In 2018 and 2019, Cheatle corresponded with the woman, apologizing for the “wrongness and recklessness” of his actions, according to emails and text messages reviewed by detectives.

“For the last time, I’m so deeply sorry,” Cheatle wrote in one message from June 2019, according to the affidavit. “I [may] never make it up to you but I’ll try to be better than I was, and I’ll never forget how important my influence can be in a young person’s life. I’ll do everything I can to honor that responsibility.”

Within that correspondence, the woman criticized Cheatle for telling a group of students that his wife was pregnant, while ignoring the “emotionally, and physically intimate relationship” they were engaged in.

During a subsequent interview with detectives, Cheatle showed them tattoos on his chest that his accuser had been able to describe in detail, saying she had seen them during their sexual encounters, the affidavit said.

Administrators at Germantown Academy told investigators Cheatle called them on Sept. 1, shortly after his interview with detectives, and announced his resignation.

In a statement Thursday, administrators at the school said Cheatle has been barred from the campus and from contacting students, both current and former. They said they will continue to assist prosecutors in their investigation and commended the former student for coming forward.

Cheatle is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing in the case Oct. 14.