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High School Female Teacher From Montclair Arrested for Sex With Student

Erica Depalo, an English teacher at the West Orange High School, was arrested on Friday for having a sexual relationship with one of her 15-year-old students.

A West Orange High School honors teacher -- who was chosen by other educators as Essex County "Teacher of the Year" last year -- has been arrested Friday for having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student.

Erica Depalo, 33, of Montclair, was arrested and charged with having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy, who is a student at the high school. The relationship allegedly began in June and ended on Tuesday, according to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

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.

The boy's name is being withheld because he is a minor. Depalo was charged with first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault, and endangering the welfare of a child. 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. 

West Orange Police declined to comment on the case and referred all questions to the prosecutor's office.

Depalo has worked at the high school since 2003. She was chosen as the , which is part of the state Department of Education’s New Jersey Teacher of the Year program. That year, she also was selected as one of the five finalists for the Teacher of the Year in the same program. 

DePalo earned her bachelor's degree in English from Villanova University and has a master's degree in Liberal Studies from the Graduate School of Arts and Science at New York University, as well as an Administrative Certificate from the College of Education and Human Services at Montclair State University.

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.

O’Neill issued the following statement Friday from the district about the arrest. 

The West Orange Public School District has 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.

This story is developing. More information will be posted when it becomes available. 


ED September 04, 2012 at 01:50 AM
What is wrong with people like this? Forty or fifty years ago this sort of thing might have been hushed-up, but this is not forty or fifty years ago. Don't these people have any sense at all?
Susan Kroeger September 04, 2012 at 11:38 AM
There are so many good teachers in NJ, Shame that a few spoil for the majority. Is it time that teachers pass a psyche test? How do you go from being teacher of the year to criminal? This is very scary. Prayers to the victim and family of the victim.
SB September 04, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Two sides two a story!
DeWayne Malone September 04, 2012 at 04:03 PM
She's sick and so are those like her that prey on our youth! Our youth also need to speak up and out lould if they know of anyone like this teacher whom we trust to educate our chidren for tomorrow not to steal away their innocence!
Mel September 04, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Hey now, she’s innocent until proven guilty. You are all talking about how she "took" this child’s rights away from him, yet how about the rights you are taking away from her. She has the right to face her accuser in a court of law and the right to due process. Until then these are only alleged accusations that have not been proven. Please keep that in mind. Also remember that kids will be kids and sometimes stories can get out of hand. "believe only half of what you see, and none of what you hear"
M. Stavenau September 04, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Well put it seems we are to quick to judge others with out knowing all the details. Why do we do this? Would we have done that forty or fifty years ago? Their are good teachers every where. I do not see them as tarnish t if one does something wrong or illegal. If your coworker does a crime against someone does that make you a bad person?
thought keeper September 05, 2012 at 03:37 AM
exactly she has said nothing and yet people jump right on the band wagon im not sayin she is not guilty just ppl need to not judge till they get the facts first but what happens if it comes out that she dident do it does she get a apology from even the people who slamed her here ? hell no they just acuse and spread the name all over and when its porven like it has been before no one goes on the news and apolpogises for the lies and nothing happens to the liers its a bunch of bull keep your thooughts to your selves untill she is found guilty with proof same goes for eveything in life grow up people
R. Bond September 05, 2012 at 06:00 AM
well I agree that as adults people should have the good sense to know better than to do something like this but on the other hand my sixteen year old stepson has been with more girls in two months than I have been with in my whole life and I am 39 not all these kids are as innocent as people make them out to be and it's a shame they use sex as a game without having any love or feelings now days it's just a score card . but no matter what the kids do adults should know better cause you will be the one behind bars !!!
Paul Gibbons September 05, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Maybe a statement from the Teachers Union? I find it difficult to believe a 10 yr, Award winning Teacher, is not being persecuted by the Media, as a diversion to the everyday news.
robert chase September 05, 2012 at 12:52 PM
If a lot of people could be more honest they could not throw stones at this young woman. That is even if she is guilty. Judge not.....let he who is without guilt............
MyMTC2 September 05, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I guess they didn't teach Ethics at any of the schools she attended? She was placed in a position of trust and if she betrayed it, her students and the parents who send their children to school assuming they will be safe from predators there; then she deserves to go to prison. If it were my son, and it was proven she was sexually involved with him, prison would be the safest place for her...
Tname September 05, 2012 at 06:27 PM
I know there are a lot of perverted 15yrs old boys at school, to make up stories and trap teachers. Why couldn't a 15 year old boy prevent that incident? This is not a 33yr old man attacking a 15 yr old girl. I am sure the 15 yr old boy agreed to continue whatever was going on. So what are we talking about here, the issue/law is that grown up should take 100% of the responsibility when dealing with minors. But that shouldn't be something minor should abuse to blame due to lack of other reasons. Let the court find out if the teacher was guilty or not before we start accusing her. God bless america.
Tname September 05, 2012 at 06:34 PM
The 'victim' probably enjoyed 3 months and started complaining after the teacher stopped, realizing that she made a mistake and can get in trouble. Please give the teacher a chance to correct the mistake if found guilty.
A. Gideon September 05, 2012 at 09:14 PM
"Why do we do this? Would we have done that forty or fifty years ago?" In reverse order: Probably and Because we're hardwired to make choices rapidly at the expense of accuracy. Our ancestors that ran from a noise that they mistakenly assumed to be a predator lived almost as long as the ancestors that ran from a noise that was a predator. The ancestors that decided to wait until they were sure didn't always do as well. It doesn't mean that this is the right thing to do. Many endeavors today require a style of thinking that goes against our biological nature. We really do need to learn to hold our decisions in abeyance until we've all the data, or how to reevaluate our beliefs or prejudices when we receive new information. This may seem like a pointless aside, but I view it as a significant issue of this election season. ...Andrew
daisy September 06, 2012 at 06:15 PM
You are a sick women .your old enough to be his mother .
pamela October 18, 2012 at 01:00 PM
SHE LOOKS LIKE A LESBIAN TO ME
jcbarsch January 11, 2013 at 06:33 AM
if this was a man involved with female his ass would be in jail they will slap her on her wrist that will be the end of it.

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