WEST ORANGE, NJ – Police have charged a former Essex County Teacher of the Year with sexual assault after they say she had an ongoing sexual relationship with one of her 15-year-old students.
On August 31, 33-year-old Erica DePalo was arrested and charged with first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child. Police say she was having sex with a 15-year-old male student she taught in her honors English class at West Orange High School.
Prosecutors say the sexual relationship began in June and lasted until sometime in August. DePalo, who is also the school’s junior varsity tennis coach, is currently free on $100,000 bail. Depalo was in court yesterday where she pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against her. She is scheduled to be back in court on October 22.
DePalo was suspended as a teacher at West Orange High School, where she taught English and Honors English since 2003. The West Orange School District superintendent released a statement regarding Depalo’s arrest and suspension, saying, “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.”
DePalo, who is single and has no children, was named Essex County’s teacher of the year in 2011. She made a video after receiving the award where she stated, “I always say that I don’t have any children to go home and take care of, but every morning and every day that I go to school I have 110 children that are very near and dear to my heart.” And, apparently, one near and dear to her vagina.
On the New Jersey Department of Education website, DePalo can be seen proudly holding her award. In the bio section it says that DePalo is the ninth grade Small Learning Community Coordinator and is working under a $2.5 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education designing curriculum for a newly developed Freshman Seminar course.
She was presented with a commendation from the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders where she said, “I am merely a representative of all the hardworking dedicated teachers, especially those with whom I work at West Orange High School … teachers who are committed to their students, who consistently advocate for their students, and who exceedingly go above and beyond their everyday duties and job descriptions.” No kidding.
And before anyone asks, “Where were these teachers when I was growing up?” The answer is that they were at your school, they were just having sex with the good-looking students.Tags: Crime, Erica Depalo, New Jersey, Sexual Assault, teacher