Essex County “Teacher of the Year” Admits to Sex With Student

Erica DePalo, now 33-years old, pled guilty this morning (February 19, 2013) before Essex County Superior Court Judge Peter Ryan toEndangering the Welfare of a Child. The former English teacher at West Orange High School admitted that on June 27, 2012, a 15-year old boy who was her student came to her apartment in Montclair after school and the two engaged in sexual intercourse.

DePalo’s plea agreement calls for her to receive a 3-year suspended jail sentence. She will also be required to abide by the terms of Community Supervision (parole supervision for sex offenders) for at least the next 15 years, register for Megan’s law, undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation, and forfeit her teaching license. She will forever be prohibited from seeking public employment. Her sentencing has been scheduled for April 29, 2013.

DePalo was initially charged with Aggravated Sexual Assault (a crime of the first degree) andSexual Assault (a crime of the second degree). If convicted of the most serious offense, she would have faced a maximum of 20 years in New Jersey State Prison with 85% to be served without the benefit of parole as per the No Early Release Act (“NERA”) for violent offenders. Those charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

During her nine year teaching career at West Orange High School, DePalo taught Honors English, Creative Writing, and Journalism, in addition to college preparatory classes. She also coached the junior varsity girl’s tennis team. She won “Essex County Teacher of the Year” for her work with freshmen and sophomores.

Prosecutors said that this was the only relationship that DePalo ever had with a minor and it lasted from June 15, 2012 until August 28, 2012. The victim and his family apparently consented to the plea agreement.

For more information, see the Star Ledger article entitled, “Former Essex County teacher of the year admits having sex with 15-year-old student.”