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February 26, 2013

Sexting teacher sent more than 4,000 text messages to students

SUNBURY, Penn. — Michael Zack, 24, of Marion Heights, Penn. a former substitute teacher pleaded guilty in December to a felony count of unlawful contact with a minor and a misdemeanor of corruption of minors.

Zack is the nephew of the Shamokin Area School District Superintendent James T. Zack.

Zack originially was charged with sending approximately 4,300 text messages to two 17-year-old and two 16-year-old girls who attended Shamokin schools at the time. Many of the messages, which were sent between March 15 and Oct. 30, 2011, contained graphic sexual material, police said.

Zack appeared before President Judge Robert Sacavage, who read off a list of accomplishments Zack had achieved. Then the judge lectured him.

“You had reached academic success, and you did an internship for the Northumberland County Juvenile Court Services and you even were a Civil War re-enactor,” Sacavage said. “You hit some high notes and now have become an embarrassment to your family and community.”

Zack was hired as a 180-day substitute teacher in the district in August 2011 and was terminated by the school board in December 2011. He voluntarily signed an affidavit surrendering his teacher’s license, which had been suspended.

Sacavage asked Zack if he agreed with the court’s presentence report and evaluation.

“This says you have a sexual obsession,” Sacavage said.

“I disagree,” Zack said.

Sacavage said sending graphic material to minors was a serious problem.

Zack said that he didn’t necessarily initiate the contact, and Sacavage began to raise his voice.

“Are you telling this court that this is normal activity for someone who is a school teacher?” Sacavage asked.

“No, your honor,” Zack replied.

Sacavage then sentenced Zack to six months of house arrest, three years of intermediate punishment and two years of probation. Zack is not allowed to use a cell phone, a computer with an Internet connection or any form of social media during the probationary term.

“I want to tell the court I am truly sorry for my actions,” Zack told Sacavage. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t regret what has happened.”

Sacavage told Zack he would monitor his progress.

Shamokin school board member Ed Griffiths said the district was short of teachers and Zack was well qualified for the substitute teaching position at the time he was hired by the school district.

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