Erica DePalo, age 33, was one of the best teachers in New Jersey last year. She was named by the New Jersey Education Association as “Teacher of the Year” in Essex County in 2011. Last week she was accused of having a sexual relationship with one of her honors English students, a boy 18 years her junior, and was arrested on Friday, according to CBS New York.
She’s being charged with first-degree aggregated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child. The sexual relationship allegedly began in June and continued until late August. DePalo also worked as the school’s junior varsity tennis coach.
Her bail was set at $100,000, but she has not yet been arraigned. DePalo has been suspended indefinitely according to Jim O’Neil, interim superintendent of the West Orange School District, and counselors will be available to students at West Orange High School.
Teacher/Student sex scandals give me the heebie-jeebies. Aside from the elements of pedophilia and abuse of power, I find them particularly disturbing because it makes me think of my experiences in high school. Most everyone had a relationship with a teacher who made a difference in their life–I am thankful for so many wonderful teachers that challenged and inspired me growing up.
I can’t imagine how I would have turned out if one of those teachers had taken advantage of our relationship. It certainly would have made a difference in my life, only it would have been the sort that left me emotionally crippled, with permanent nightmares and trust issues.
Information on the student DePalo had a sexual relationship with remains private. Let’s hope it stays that way, for his sake. Let’s also hope this situation doesn’t become anything like the Mary Kay Letourneau/Vili Fualaau affair, which was beyond creepy.
(Photo: Fox News)