West Orange High Teacher Arrested For Having a Sexual Relationship with a 15-year-old Student

Erica DePalo, a teacher at West Orange High School, has been arrested for alleged sexual misconduct with a student. This just in from the Essex County Prosecutors Office:

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and West Orange Police Chief James P. Abbott  announced today that West Orange school teacher Erica Depalo, 33, of Montclair was charged today with having an illegal sexual relationship with a 15-year-old male student she taught in her Honor’s English class.

The arrest warrant charges Depalo with first degree aggravated sexual assault, second degree sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

According to West Orange Police Detective Louis Mignone, it is alleged that Depalo, who in addition to teaching English is also the Junior Varsity tennis coach, began a sexual relationship with a male student on or about June 15. At the time, the victim was 15 years old. The relationship continued until August 28.

Tonight the Honorable Martin G. Cronin, Judge of the Superior Court, signed an arrest warrant for Depalo. Bail was set at $100,000 by Judge Cronin.

These are accusations. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they plead guilty or are found guilty in a court of law.

Interim Superintendent of West Orange Schools,  James O’Neill,  released this statement to us:

We have 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.

Barista Kids wrote about Ms. DePalo last year when she was selected as the “Teacher of the Year” for Essex County. DePalo taught Honors English for Grades 9 and 10 at West Orange High School since 2003.


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  1. It might be a good idea, in order to avoid the sort of leering in the post immediately above, to close this thread to further comments.

  2. I went to WOHS, and I actually had Ms. DePalo as a teacher. There were always rumors about her having “special” relationships with male students . . . I guess they were true.

  3. Mrs. Martta, the merely accused-so far at least don’t deserve the sort of post smdb143 offers up above. Neither me nor thee knows any more about this case. (Just watch how hard it’ll prove for Ms. DePalo to get her life back if this ever goes to trial and in in fact she’s proven innocent, too, and ponder how much it’ll have cost her.) And running an item like this is likely intended to in fact spur this sort of useless speculation. (Which is yet another reason why “authentically local” journalism is no such thing.)

    Besides, who are “people like this?” Baristanet already too often encourages a sort of politically correct thinking in absolute lockstep. That in turn is hardly to Montclair’s credit.

  4. I beg to differ. I don’t see the problem here. It’s news and it’s local so why shouldn’t Baristanet report it? If it does indeed prove to be true, then I don’t think it’s “politically correct” to condemn a paedophile, it’s what a civilized society SHOULD do. Too often we make excuses for people who commit crimes like this. But let’s see how it plays out.

  5. Mrs. Martta, I think you missed (or purposely ignored) my point. While this may be indeed news, Baristanet is almost always really interested in “news” news (recalling Whoopie Goldberg’s appallingly dumb comment that something “wasn’t, you know, ‘rape’ rape”). Meaning in providing occasions for sniggering for the liberal rabble who gather here.

    It’s fine to condemn pedophilia. And convicted pedophiles. Ms. DePalo is merely accused. And yet even as that’s all there is to date, we have a knothead above referring darkly to “rumors” swirling about DePalo while he/she attended WOHS. (Rumors, after all, are not typically admissible as evidence.) This is not encouraging the free exchange of views, either. Instead, it’s shameless pandering, something Baristanet is quite often guilty of.

    Yes, too, it’s fun sometimes. (Witness how even just a new home on Walnut Street allows progressive groundlings to have their squeaky say.) I know that. But it’s not at all news which requires skilled, deft reporting and reasoned responses. I hope you don’t believe otherwise, because I’ve never at all taken you to be a member of the liberal lynch mobs which unfortunately form up here so regularly.

  6. Hardly mentioned, but these kids should be somewhat responsible. They are fully aware of the inappropriateness of a teacher/student relationship. Right now they can pursue anyone of authority and there is only a “reward” for their actions, no risk. Yes, the teacher is a predator in this case and without her consent this would have never happened. And yes she should be prosecuted as a sexual predator and lose her right to work with children. But this student is also should be looked at by a professional. Not for criminal prosecution but psychologically.

  7. @jimmytown: Seriously??? You say “These kids should be somewhat responsible. They are fully aware of the inappropriateness of a teacher/student relationship. Right now they can pursue anyone of authority and there is only a “reward” for their actions, no risk”?!?!? What are you talking about? What benefit do you believe this kid is going to get out of this? You don’t know the first thing about him or the relationship with this teacher. She’s 33, he’s 15. At 15 years old, teenagers may have the conceptual notion that certain things are “wrong” and “inappropriate” but they don’t have the life experience to truly comprehend the real life consequences. How could this kid have known that by engaging in a relationship with this so-called caring teacher that it would potentially annihilate her career and put her in jail? I think it took a lot of courage on the part of this kid and his family to come forward. This cannot be an easy time for them and my heart goes out to his parents. I also hope that the victim doesn’t suffer any long term emotional and/or psychological damage from this.

  8. Leave it to cathar to use the occasion of a story he deems unimportant to lob some bombs at those he dubs “progressives” or “liberal elites”. While most are accustomed to rambling, nonsensical and painfully constructed blather from B’nets self-appointed news judge, this particular post brings home in full clarity to the depths to which he will sink in order to make his ridiculous case against anyone with whom he disagrees.

    The “sniggering” is no worse than the opportunism he exhibits. The ‘liberal lynch mob” is non-existent. The ‘deft reporting” is something with which he is completely unacquainted.

    In short, it is just one more blast of hot, stale air from a world-class gasbag.

  9. @mschwartz, I knew my comment was going to be met with some resistance and I cannot fight this because anything I say will sound like I am siding with the teacher, which I am not. Although 15 year olds do not know the emotional impact of a relationship, they do know current events and that this happens (or makes the news) enough for them to realize the cause/effect of this. Of course because this is a female teacher and male student, society sadly still sees this as less of an offense. I agree 100% that this female teacher is in the wrong, that she has broke many lines when it comes to providing a safe environment conducive to learning, child safety and perversion. I am simply saying that the student should be evaluated as well. Not all students, male or female would get themselves in a situation like this. I assume that the male student wasn’t forced into this, and there could be an underlying cause for him to seek an adult companion, or if it is some vendetta. Hormones are raging and some kids are sociopaths. Again, I am not standing up for the teacher

  10. Who knows? Maybe he was struggling in class and she promised him good grades? Just conjecture, I know. Still, she is the one in power and he is her subordinate. It’s the same thing if your boss hits on you and if you turn him/her down, you could be passed over or worse, fired. Same thing.

  11. @Jimmytown: I seriously doubt there was a “vendetta” going on here. I think that both parties are most likely psychologically damaged in some way, and this is what helped them to rationalize behavior that they knew was inappropriate on every level. The teacher should have been able to set hard and fast boundaries and she clearly chose not to. From what I’ve read, in cases like this, the victims are identified by the predator as troubled and/or vulnerable for a myriad of reasons. Teachers are in a position where they are around these kids on a daily basis, which gives them all the insight they need to seek out their victims. A stronger personality type wouldn’t succumb to the advances of a predatory adult.

  12. @Cathar – could not agree with you more… the comments are simply provoking an accusation. Albeit, hopefully the authorities have strong enough evidence to have made the arrest. The comments (such as sdmb143 – I guess they were true) are exactly the sort that bring assumptions into a news item. You did not imply to remove the article, and in fact, did not even question reporting methods. You simply suggested to curb the component that may exacerbate a horrendous circumstance.

    @Jimmytown – also fully agree with you – if this is found to be true. The teacher/adult is 100% responsible for her actions and has violated a commitment and responsibility that shall never again be availed to her. The student, also has an awareness. As Mschwartz indicates, the 15-yr old may not fully understand the whole of the situation, however, at the very least should understand that the relationship is inappropriate. Therefore, engaging in the relationship, on a simple end could be a matter of boasting to friends (centuries-old technique of proving maturity). Or on a more complex end, could imply underlying issues that should be evaluated. Regardless, the student likely had awareness and agreed to participate.

    The only exception I would give to that is if the teen was classified, in some fashion. I expect that is not the case, because it seems he was a student in an Honors English class. This is an interesting point, because you will find a male in Honors English must have an extensive communication technique – proven to not be the forte of the male gender. Honors Math, could be just a logical level of understanding, however, with Honors English, one must engage. There are analyses to explore the material, as it relates to the time and setting of the story, as well as how it would apply to current life. The unfortunate matter is that the brain is the strongest sex organ; through a class such as Honors English, the opportunity for stimulation is magnified.

    Again, I do not support the teacher, but the student who is exposed to more now than teens have ever been before – he is not unaware of the implications.

  13. Leave it to the irredeemably bitter croiagusanam to be reliably boring again. Really, croi, you’re going to have to go to bed earlier or something in order to stay even relatively sharp.

    Others above post as if Ms. DePalo is guilty already. And even as if personally knowledgeable about the case. Do their growing ranks include your crotchety self? Do you endorse their surety of opinion?

    Yes, it is very much a liberal lynch mob. Albeit (so far) only a virtual one. That you defend them does you absolutely no credit. Not a high moment for either you or those whom you attempt to gather unto your skirts. And so very, very no-progressive.

    And no, that is not “reporting” above. That Baristanet often seems simply to pass on and compound local rumors is not at all to its credit. That you defend the rumor mongers is appalling. Perhaps it just makes your creaky old heart feel good? You scabrously play to the galleries too frequently, old man, and it’s showing. And yes, you’re very, very boring

  14. To be deemed boring by you, the poster boy for Sominex, is reassuring. As long as addled illiterates like you take issue with me, I know that I’m still grounded in reality.

    There is no lynch mob at all. People express opinions. You either agree or you don’t. But in your case, it is not enough to disagree. You must insult the intelligence and the motives of each “guilty” poster, all the while trying to channel William F. Buckley. Of course, you lack his wit, his style and his charm, so it simply comes off as what it is — the flailings of a wannabe who is watching the world go by and feels powerless to get into the swing of it all.

    What is especially notable is your inability to read and process on a regular post. Therefore, you deduce that I am ‘defending” some posters, as if they needed defending, as if they were guilty of anything other than an opinion or perhaps a generalization ( somewhat like “bottom feeders or liberal sludge for example) or as if at the end of the day anyone really cares what I, or you, or anyone else here thinks about this or any other subject. Puffed full of self-importance, convinced of an intellect that is so clearly not there, and embittered by the unfairness of a world that does not give you your due, you are reduced to these pathetic bleats delivered in sporadic bursts. I almost feels sorry for you, you poor old sod.

  15. Holy Smokes, Batman. Cro’s 11am bit was like the 45 of the Benny Hill theme, played on 33 1/3. At first it was fun, trying to make sense of it, then it was tedious (though name-checking Sominex, vs. say, Ambien was “creative”).

    Here though, I see it both ways. This story is what folks are talking about, it IS news. And like a newspaper picking up an AP story, posting it on B-net makes sense EVEN knowing that by allowing comments we would see the usual “sides” come out.

    The story on all “news” websites/blogs cribs from the Essex County Prosecutors Office’s Press Release. So posting it here is not unlike any other news organization, or reporter.

    With that, the only post that strikes a “different” chord, and perhaps raises an issue for discussion is Jimmytown’s, though not exactly.

    The issue of a “difference” between the victimhood of a young woman vs. a young boy is a question. Specifically: will a boy be as “traumatized” as a girl? Sure it depends on the type or manner to which the kid was preyed upon (and I DO USE prey, because this teacher’s accused behavior is unconscionable). Or since society places teen girl sexuality in a higher regard than boys, and boys are depicted as always searching and wanting “IT” (witness The Graduate, Porkys, American Pie, etc.), IS it different?

    The law obviously doesn’t take gender sides, so this is a societal question.

    Anyway, gotta go grind my chuck/short ribs for burgers.

  16. For clarification mschwartz above is NOT me.

    Please change your user name or use your full name to avoid confusion. I have not commented here.

    Martin Schwartz

  17. Oh goody! Robin has arrived on scene just in the nick!

    Well, he was a tad late. Batman cathar let him drive the Batmobile for the first time today and the dear boy got lost a few times. But he’s here now, by God, and he’s as full of piss and vinegar as always. Good show!

  18. Oh and I DO hope that the prof/Robin holds onto the Benny Hill schtick as long as cathar/Batman did the “Spiro Tawana” one.

    They are both SCREAMINGLY funny!

  19. Hey croi, not Sominex for cathar, but quite the opposite, That’s what he will be needing to keep awake during yet another loooog and boring season of Columbia Univ. football. Wait ’till the Penn Quakers get a hold of those pretentious pigskin pussycats on October 13th. U Penn coach Al Bagnoli will be “spewing all the bile” that cather and alma mater will be able to handle on that occasion!

  20. I agree with Cathar that speculation has no place here. (Although, compared to many other sites, I have to say that in general, the Baristanet commenters deserve Kudos for their relatively rational responses.) Having worked in a high school for many years, I advise everyone to wait and see. High schools are drama factories, and sometimes it’s based in truth – sometimes it’s not. I hope it’s not in this case. They have her arrested, speculation isn’t *saving* anyone. It can only hurt all the parties involved.

Comments are closed.