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Former Teacher Of The Year Accepts Plea In Teen Sex Case

Montclair resident and West Orange High School English teacher Erica DePalo avoids prison with plea deal.

A Montclair resident who was honored as the Essex County Teacher of the Year in 2012 pleaded guilty Tuesday to endangering the welfare of a child, according to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office. 

West Orange High School English teacher Erica DePalo, 33, will receive life parole supervision under the terms of the plea agreement when she is sentenced on April 29.

She will also be required to undergo a psychological evaluation at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel, forfeit her teacher’s license and never be allowed to seek government appointment, authorities said.

DePalo was arrested on Aug. 31 and charged with aggravated sexual assault and a second count of sexual assault for an alleged relationship with a 15-year-old boy. Those charges were dropped as part of the agreement.

She could have faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted on all initial charges.

DePalo 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.

The plea drew much criticism from West Orange school district's Interim Superintendent Jim O'Neill, who stated he was “personally disappointed” and felt the parents and students in the district “have been poorly served by the justice system in Essex County."

O'Neill denounced the county for treating the incident too lightly, citing a decision by a judge in a nearby county recommending seven years in jail in a similar case.

"I could not imagine that a teacher who admitted to engaging in sexual relations with an underage student would not face any jail time," O'Neill said in a release.

“This is a just resolution of the case because it frees the victim from having to testify in open court,” Assistant Prosecutor Tony Gutierrez said. “The victim’s family is also relieved that their son can now move forward.”

James Hughes February 20, 2013 at 11:41 AM
If the tables were turned and it was a male teacher having sex with a 15 year old female student, he'd be in jail doing serious time. What a double-standard! I'm disgusted.
emiliac February 20, 2013 at 12:54 PM
I am glad for all this Is resolved. I believe the recidivism rate is high for these kind of crimes, but this is what the family of the minor wanted. Life long parole? Will Ms. DePalo be repaying the county for her life long supervision? Often after their release, convicted felons are mandated to pay court fees back to the system. Finally, aren't men convicted of this crime sentenced more severely? I am glad for all that this is over.
Bill C February 20, 2013 at 04:48 PM
How traumatized is that 15 years old boy now???????????? And where was she, when I was that age?????????? All them apples, I was bringing to them, never paid off in my case
joe fischer February 21, 2013 at 12:50 AM
Agreed

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