Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Former Teacher-of-the-Year accused of sex with 15-year-old boy




Erica DePalo, 33-year-old English teacher at West Orange High School in Montclair, New Jersey, has been accused of engaging in months long sexual realtionship with a 15-year-old male student.

DePalo, the winner of last year’s Essex County’s “Teacher of the Year”, faces charges of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child. She was arrested was arrested about 7:30 p.m. last Friday and accused of having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old male student she taught in her honor’s English class, according to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. The relationship allegedly began in June and August 28.

Authorities did not give many details about the nature of the relationship or how it was disclosed, but said the boy was a student in Depalo's honors class. She was also the junior varsity tennis coach at the high school. Depalo’s bail was set at $100,000.

Depalo was suspended "immediately and indefinitely" by the school district, according to a released statement by James O’Neill, the newly appointed West Orange School District superintendent.  "We have been advised by the Essex County Prosecutors Office that one of our employees has been arrested; the district has taken strong action by suspending the employee immediately   and indefinitely.  The school district will cooperate with the prosecutor’s office in every way.  The West Orange School District prides itself on being vested in the health, safety and welfare of our students, to that end counselors will be available at West Orange High School beginning at noon on Tuesday September 4th, and every day after as long as needed."

Depalo has worked at the high school since 2003 and was chosen as the 2011-12 County Teacher of the Year, which is part of the state Department of Education’s New Jersey Teacher of the Year program. she also was selected as one of the five finalists for the Teacher of the Year in the same program same year.  At the time she was named Essex County Teacher of the Year, and honored by the Essex County Freeholders, she claimed to be working on her Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership at The College of New Jersey.

DePalo is not the first award-winning teacher to be accused of having a sexual relationship with a teenage student. In 2008, James Darden was sentenced to eight years in prison, after admitting to having a two-year sexual relationship with a student that started when she was 13. In 2005, Darden had won the prestigious Milken Family Foundation Educator Award and his arrest shocked the community at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Teaneck, where he had been a beloved and popular teacher.

Source:

Lauded NJ "Teacher of the Year 2011" Accused of Sex with Student‎


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