An online personality and English lecturer at a reputable international school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, has been fired from his position after screenshots of "inappropriate" messages he sent to a former student were shared on social media.
Michael Strahan, an American citizen also known by his moniker "Teacher Michael" on social media, allegedly sent flirty messages to a former student at the Australian Center for Education (ACE) over the span of three years.
In screenshots obtained by the Khmer Times, the Louisiana native appeared to joke with the student about dating him in exchange for scholarship money and tells the minor to "let me know when you're 18."
Strahan has since been let go by school administrators after the teacher's messages emerged on social media on Sept. 27.
"We have been made aware of an allegation of serious misconduct made on social media against a staff member," Country Director at IDP Education Sreng Mao, said in a school-wide email on Sept. 30.
"While social media allegation has not been proven, following a review by our risk committee, we have determined the staff member's communication with a student was entirely inappropriate and ceased the staff member's employment," Mao continued. "This is in line with our internal policies and in the best interest of our students. We have a zero-tolerance policy toward child abuse, child exploitation or violence towards children. We take any allegations of misconduct or malpractice seriously and the issue has now been shared with local authorities. Any queries or questions can be directed to me."
Strahan claims in a now-deleted TikTok video that his messages were taken out of context and he was being "targeted." VOD English reached out to the teacher on Facebook on Tuesday, but his social media accounts, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, have been taken down. A TikTok account under "michaeliincambodia" and a Quora page remain online.
"I'm sure that you guys have all seen the screenshots of a conversation I had years ago with an ex-student," Strahan said in a video response, which was saved by social media users. "Those were absolutely my words in that chat. I wrote those words, and aside from that, I've also been a victim - a target - of a hate campaign. So those two things are happening simultaneously, at the same time."
The allegations stemmed from an argument on Facebook after Strahan complained about motorcyclists hogging the sidewalk in Phnom Penh, two students said. Other Facebook users responded by commenting with memes, while an anonymous user shared screenshots of Strahan's messages to the student.
"People started posting the screenshots themselves instead of the meme," one ACE student, whose name has been withheld, said. "Fast forward, it just started going viral from there. It was like a snowball effect."
Commenters accused Strahan, who claimed that he experienced sexual abuse, of "grooming" the former student in order to exploit him later.
The age of consent in Cambodia is 15, but teenagers are considered minors until they turn 18.
According to a report published by UNICEF, "11% of internet-using children aged 12-17 had experienced clear examples of online sexual exploitation and abuse in the year prior to being surveyed."
"Meanwhile, 6% of internet-using children aged 15-17 reported having accepted money or gifts in exchange for sexual images or videos of themselves," the report continued.
While Cambodian legislation does not explicitly criminalize online grooming of children, the Criminal Code does criminalize "the arrangement, by an adult, of meetings involving indecent exposure or sexual relations at which minors are present or participate," according to the report.
Strahan has reportedly fled to Malaysia, according to the Khmer Times.
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