A South Dakota teacher’s aide has been arrested on sex charges connected to an “illegal relationship” with two students, police say.
Michelle Felkey, 39, was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon, the Rapid City Police Department said in a press release.
Felkey worked as a paraprofessional with Rapid City Area Schools, and is a resident of the city, police said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Said They Learned About Her ‘Illegal Relationship’ With the 2 Students Through a Tip
Michelle Felkey was involved in an “illegal relationship” with two juveniles, police said in the press release.
“The criminal investigation began after Rapid City police received a tip that Felkey was having an illegal relationship with the juveniles,” police said. “The juveniles’ name and further details about their relationship with Felkey are being withheld in order to protect them as victims.”
The investigation is ongoing.
“If the public has information related to the ongoing investigation, they are encouraged to contact police investigations at 605-394-4134,” police said.
Details of the “illegal relationship” have not been released.
2. She Oversaw the In-School Suspension Room at the District’s Alternative High School
Felkey was hired as a paraprofessional by Rapid City Area Schools in December 2015, according to her Facebook page.
She was working at the district’s alternative high school.
“I was hired to manage the In School Suspension room at the alternative high school here in Rapid City after three weeks as the long-term substitute for the same position. I am very pleased and grateful for this opportunity,” Felkey.
It’s not immediately clear where she worked previously.
3. She Graduated From High School in Rapid City & Studied at Black Hills State University
Michelle Felkey, whose maiden name is Morgan, graduated from Stevens High School in Rapid City in 1995, according to her Facebook page.
She studied at the University of Wyoming from 1995 to 1997, and then at Black Hills State University in South Dakota from 1997 to 2002.
Felkey is divorced and has children with her ex-husband, though it is not known if she had custody of any of her kids.
She posted on Facebook about mental illness two days before her arrest:
Mental Illness ~ It may occasionally give us a laugh or perhaps cause some annoyance when we see its effects in someone we pass by on the street, but when we see its effects in someone we dearly love we understand that there is no joke about it and that it is often far more than a bother. Mental illness can be devastating to relationships and to the basic ebb and flow of one’s life. Mental Health Awareness week is coming up in May. The focus this year is on RELATIONSHIPS and how they affect mental health in all of us. Let’s think about how we can reach out in a dignified way to those we know and love who suffer.
Some Rapid City residents have attacked her on that post after her arrest.
“You post about mental illness? You are the one with a mental problem. having sex with school kids…. you are a monster and a s*ut. I hope you get time in prison,” wrote Brad Rohrich.
“You must have severe mental issues to take advantage of innocent children who are suppose to look up to you. I hope you feel ashamed and get help for your sick ways!,” wrote Moriah Suhr.
4. She Is Facing a Felony Charge That Carries Up to 5 Years in Prison
Felkey was charged with solicitation of a minor, a class 5 felony, and dissemination of harmful material to a minor, a misdemeanor, police said.
According to the state website, the charge carries a sentence of up to 5 years in prison and occurs when:
(A person) Solicits a minor, or someone the person reasonably believes is a minor, to engage in a prohibited sexual act; or … knowingly compiles or transmits by means of a computer; or prints, publishes or reproduces by other computerized means; or buys, sells, receives, exchanges or disseminates, any notice, statement or advertisement of any minor’s name, telephone number, place of residence, physical characteristics or other descriptive or identifying information for the purpose of soliciting a minor or someone the person reasonably believes is a minor to engage in a prohibited sexual act.
The fact that an undercover operative or law enforcement officer was involved in the detection and investigation of an offense under this section does not constitute a defense to a prosecution under this section.
Consent to performing a prohibited sexual act by a minor or a minor’s parent, guardian, or custodian, or mistake as to the minor’s age is not a defense to a charge of violating this section.
Disseminating harmful material to a minor is a crime when a person provides media that “depicts nudity, sexual conduct, or sado-masochistic abuse,” according to the state website.
Police spokesman Brendyn Medina told the Rapid City Journal, “in general terms, it’s safe to say that nude or lewd pictures fall into that.”
5. She Was Fired by the School District After It Learned About the Investigation
Felkey was fired by the school district after it learned of the investigation.
“We expect all staff members at all times to adhere to the highest ethical practices and conducts,” RCAS Superintendent Dr. Tim Mitchell said in a statement. “We will not tolerate behaviors that compromise the safety of our children.”
“The RCPD and the RCAS are committed to our students,” Chief of Police Karl Jegeris said in a statement. “This incident highlights the cooperative quick response and collaborative nature of our working relationship in order to ensure the safety of our students.”