Elementary School Teacher Faces 55 Charges on Accusations He Sexually Abused Children: 'Skilled at Grooming'

The teacher was arrested last month and is being held without bail until his trial

<p>Anne Arundel County Police</p>

Anne Arundel County Police

An elementary school teacher accused of sexually abusing his students has recently been indicted by a federal grand jury in Maryland on dozens of charges.

Matthew Schlegel, 44, who worked as an elementary school teacher in Severna Park, Md., faces 55 charges of sexual abuse of at least eight children under his instruction, according to documents obtained by CBS News, WBFF-TV and the Capital Gazette.

Schlegel was initially arrested last month at his home on 36 counts, which included seven counts of child sex abuse and 14 counts of fourth-degree sex offense, per the outlets.

According to charging documents obtained by the Capital Gazette, police launched an investigation into the alleged sexual abuse involving Schlegel and one of his female students at Severna Park Elementary School in March 2024.

At least seven other students came forward after that with their own claims of abuse, which allegedly occurred from August 2022 to March 2024, often during school hours, authorities allege. Schlegel was removed from the classroom on March 15 as a result of the investigation.

The Anne Arundel District Attorney’s Office and Anne Arundel Public Schools did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

During a court hearing on May 28, a judge ruled to deny Schlegel bail ahead of his trial, saying the "statement of facts, if true, are heinous," per WBFF-TV.

Peter O’Neill, the former teacher’s attorney, argued in court that Schlegel should be allowed bail, claiming he's not a flight risk because of his connections in the town. More than 30 people — including Schlegel’s wife and family members, friends and former students — attended Schlegel's court hearing on his behalf, per WBFF-TV and Capital Gazette.

Prosecutors, however, described the suspect as "crafty” and “skilled at grooming children,” per the outlets.

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A civil case from the families of the alleged victims against Schlegel and the county school system, Anne Arundel Public Schools, has also been filed, O’Neill told the Capital Gazette.

Schlegel has been a teacher in the Anne Arundel County Public Schools since 2008 and began teaching at Severna Park Elementary School in 2016, according to CBS News.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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