In Sexual-Assault Cases Overseas, School-Trip Chaperones Can’t Be Prosecuted


Maureen SullivanMaureen Sullivan Contributor

Parents sending their children on class trips overseas: beware. Chaperones may not be prosecuted for sexual assault against the students they are overseeing if the alleged crimes take place in a foreign country.

In a 6-0 decision last week, the New Jersey Supreme Court overturned earlier rulings and said the state did not have “territorial jurisdiction” because the alleged sexual acts by two male chaperones against three 17-year-old female students at a Catholic high school took place in Germany.

The court, however, did recognize what some may consider the “unsettling” nature of its decision and suggested that the legislature may want to rewrite the law. “It is troubling to think that a teacher responsible for the care of young adults can sexually assault them on a school trip abroad and not be subject to prosecution in our state,” the justices said in their decision.

The case began back in February 2011 when Michael Sumulikoski and Artur Sopel supervised a group of students from Paramus Catholic High School on a trip to Germany. A week after the group returned to New Jersey, stories started spreading that something sexual had occurred between the men, who worked at the school, and three of the female students on the trip. A teacher reported the men to state authorities and a Bergen County grand jury indicted Sumulikoski and Sopel on multiple counts of sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

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