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. 

Gary Englert September 04, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Brett Kaiser: Your point is reasonable but, better illustrated by posting the New Jersey statutes and not Connecticut's. :-)
Gary Englert September 04, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Status Quo: Perhaps it has escaped your attention but, the age and pedigree of the vast majority of posters here (including yourself) are unknown quantities. They may "claim" to be student, teachers, adults and parents...or doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs... but, who and what they are is a mystery. Regardless of who they may be, shaping the debate and pointing out what is of true importance is the responsibility of leadership and I choose to fill the clear vaccum here. Rather than calling anyone anything perjorative...with the exception of those who draw first blood...my habit is to challenge ill-conceived pronouncements and urge the poster to consider the broader implication of their words. "In aid of what? How does that acquit (me)? It's simple, really; we and the generation to follow will confront real issues concerning our system of laws and long held beliefs and protections that are being rendered moot by the speed and distribution of information through ever burgeoning technology. Innocent until proven guilty? Nice in theory but, when the story of a defendent's alleged crime (particularly a salacious one) has already gone viral, across the country, just where, for example, can they possibly receive a fair trial? If people living under a rock constitute a jury of your peers, I wish you luck. As to my combat valor, it's neither purported nor self-proclaimed but, simply a fact that I have no need to apologize for. Sorry it offends you.
Status Quo September 04, 2012 at 11:26 PM
WOW! Much more Palinesque than Carvillean. :-) Your latest dissertation is a classical study in obfuscation. Kudos to you.
Gary Englert September 04, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Status Quo: I don't think of the Constitution as being Republican or Democratic...and what you incorrectly perceive as obfuscation, those that actually do know me understand is conviction. That said, for all his Cajun-Southern bluster, James Caville inhabits an intellectual realm that Sara Palin can only dream about.
Brett Kaiser September 05, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Touche` I was wondering why it's not called rape actually...in any case...I'm SURE that the powers that be are being very thorough...
john anthony prignano September 05, 2012 at 02:10 AM
jaime Years ago,I had a conversation with a School Board member. She offered a few reasons for the absurdly high level of compensation the School Board gave the teachers. Part of what she said was "Behind closed doors they threaten to hurt the kids, and they bully us and intimidate us " I believed her wholeheartedly,but that's not the point. I said "Why don't you go to the Prosecutor's Office,maybe they will have you wear a wire." Many years ago, there was a meeting at Town Hall to discuss the $55,000,000 school construction referendum .Then - Councilman John Skarbnik was there.He said to the gathering; "We really need to pass this referendum .Kids are being taught in stairwells and storage closets ,and they're blocking fire exits" I wrote a letter to the Chronicle. I wrote, "Councilman Skarbnik, Why are you telling us? Did you tell the Fire Department ,the building inspectors,and the code enforcement officials about this ongoing travesty? If the schools are overcrowded and dangerous, why are they still open, to coerce the public into voting yes on the referendum ? jaime, if you see a principal slapping young teachers on their butts,speak up.No one should have to be subjected to that garbage.The PUBLIC behavior you describe is not only reprehensible but also illegal. "Coming from the street" or anything else for that matter is no justification or explanation whatsoever for this person's behavior. Don't let this principal or anyone else tell you it is. jaime, speak up.
Status Quo September 05, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Ms DePalo has been released on bail.
Status Quo September 05, 2012 at 05:55 AM
haha! "...no need to respond...". try "pathological need to respond" (q.v. above ... "paradox", "remonstrating others", "level of discourse is manifest", "keep the dialogue productive". It's hilarious). Don't deprive us of this entertainment.
Ryan September 05, 2012 at 01:26 PM
buttercrunch, you're assuming that the victim in this case (the 15-year-old) was the accuser. The accuser may in fact be a third party.
Paul Corrigan from West Orange September 05, 2012 at 02:31 PM
I am glad they caught her- I hope there are not others.
Mel September 05, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Mr. Prignano. I apologize but I find your response to my post to be a bit off topic. I am not sure what you think you read and why you think I had a relationship with this teacher. All I said was that she was my teacher and an excellent one at that. I continued by emphasizing on the right to be judged in front of a court of law, and to show that we are doing here really has no importance. What you or anyone says on this post has no meaning in a court, and is fully inadmissible. I continued by saying there are two possible victims and until now we aren’t sure which one of the two is guilty of transgressions. I feel you are reading and seeing what you want only to have someone else to talk down to. Your comments have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with what I said.
West Oranger September 05, 2012 at 03:32 PM
I have children in elementary school and have been very happy with the schools and their governance. I'm confident that this is an isolated incident, and I don't think it has anything to do with school rankings (in which we're just above the middle, just about reflecting our economic situation, as with nearly every district in the state).
West Oranger September 05, 2012 at 03:36 PM
People should be a lot more sensitive to the fact that she's innocent until proven guilty and that there are current WOHS students here... Y
lisa September 05, 2012 at 09:06 PM
This goes out to Sylvia and others who believe that the West Orange Board of Ed is responsible for the "alleged" sexual misconduct. I don't see how anyone employed with this school district could be to blame for something so far fetched as this supposed allegations. I moved here from Newark eighteen years ago and the main reason was so my children can have a better school experience and I just could not continue to afford private school. I'm very glad to say that I live in WEST ORANGE. The door swings both ways.
realistic former wohs student September 13, 2012 at 10:06 PM
@Gary Englert: I have sat here and read about 75% of these comments. I went to WOHS. I did not personally have Ms. Depalo as a teacher, however I did spend time at my sports practice during the same time she lead hers, as well as seeing her in school. In my opinion, I don't know whether I believe she had sexual relations with this student in particular. I do however POSITIVELY believe she has had numerous sexual relationships with former students both while they attended school, and after graduation. I only have one name of a student that I personally know for sure has had sexual relations with Ms. Depalo while he attended school, as well as after he graduated, however out of respect for privacy I will not disclose his name. I had ALWAYS heard of MULTIPLE guys saying they had sex with her. She was ALWAYS wearing inappropriate clothing and she never failed to flirt with male students, all of which I personally witnessed. I don't care if she was the "best teacher" you ever had, because if she was so amazing she shouldn't have been screwing her students! The people above her could have seen something coming, but probably didn't think enough into it, being that WOHS has enough issues on its plate. I'm so sick and tired of seeing people praise her for her work. She graduated college, she's not stupid. She knew what she was doing. She deserves this. Its pathetic.
Gary Englert September 13, 2012 at 10:53 PM
realistic former wohs student: Be all that as it may, your anonymous testimony is no more credible than anyone else's anonymous testimony. Unless you personally saw something and are willing to give sworn testimony about what you saw anything you say or allege here is pointless. What your unnamed friend tells you he did constitutes hearsay...and isn't admissable in a court of law or actionable either.
realistic former wohs student September 14, 2012 at 03:08 AM
@Gary Englert: If you for once on this comment stream took your head out of your ass and realized for a second that the others commenting here actually have lives and aren't going to meddle in what is being taken care of by others, then maybe you would understand why OVER half of us are anonymous. As a FORMER student at WOHS why would I even think of getting back into its loop of stupidity. Clearly you don't know Ms. Depalo like the students of WOHS since 2003 have known her. When people take time out of their days to comment on something as serious as another person's career, its not to simply spread rumors or make her look bad. If I didn't know what I know, I wouldn't waste my time commenting. All that is done in the dark, eventually comes to light. She'll get what she deserves for breaking the trust and professional bond between teacher and student. WOHS is not to blame. She is. She's 33. The fact that the student I know of having relations with her graduated in 2006 and had her in 2003 is sad. She obviously has never taken the professional side to a student-teacher relationship into perspective, because wearing tight, short skirts with low-cut tops while flirting with 14-18 yr olds isn't going to produce an outcome in anything more than crushes, mixed messages, and lines being crossed. Maybe you don't have kids, but if you do, open your eyes. This shit happens every day, and women like her use a pretty face and a nice body to get away with whatever they so choose.
Gary Englert September 14, 2012 at 12:40 PM
A former realistic WOHS student? Perhaps but, you're most certainly a cowardly, anonymous Internet nitwit. Not only is my head anywhere my vision might be impaired, I can recognize unsubstantiated gossip when I see it and that's precisely what your post and a great many others in this stream are. The woman has been charged with some serious crimes and common sense tells me the charges weren't brought lightly and are not the result of unsubstantiated allegation. While you're thinking about that, you might consider getting some counseling to address the deep seeded mysoginy you've exhibited; without it, you're unlikely to ever have a successful relationship with a member of the opposite sex.
realistic former wohs student September 14, 2012 at 02:16 PM
@ Gary Englert: Clearly you are the only one on this stream who is in DESPERATE need of counseling. Perhaps you should be the one charges with crimes. Her charges are serious. And as a woman with many worthy credentials, whether guilty or not, her actions have lead her to where she is today. For years she has been inappropriate with her students. I had many female and male teachers and witnessed none of them crossing lines like she has. I may be anonymous, but my allegations are true. Whether you choose to believe them or not is fully up to you. But tell me, if it had been a 15 year old girl the Essex County Prosecutors Department began an investigation on because of a relationship between her and her 33 year old male teacher, would you even think twice as to his innocence? Because most would not. In fact most would think even worse of him and would most likely harass him for even flirting with a 15 year old. The school and state have clear rules about teacher-student relationships and if she knowingly broke them by having even a non-sexual relationship with a 15 year old student outside of school, which they do have proof of, then she deserves a punishment of not being allowed to teach. Its unnecessary and inappropriate. She's 33. In this county, she's old enough to be his mother. Whether or not you are a parent, if you are, or are planning on becoming one, you seriously need to get help. You comment on this daily and appear to be an old, jealous, lonely, bored man!
Gary Englert September 14, 2012 at 05:25 PM
realistic former wohs student: Whatever else you learned at WOHS, reading comprehension and logic wasn't a stellar part of it. Nothing I've said here, or anywhere else, would suggest the crimes Ms. Depalo is charged with are neither serious, unjustified nor uncorroborated. What I have said is that the anonymous allegations of prior acts or behavior are nothing more than unsubstantiated gossip and an entirely pointless exercise for those making them. Ms. Depalo's story has long since gone viral and, in a society where one's innocence until proven guilty is sacrosanct, she has already been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion...whether she actually is guilty or not. Just where, for instance, can she (or anyone else under such circumstances) receive a fair trial by a jury of their peers? When and if you, or anyone else, is ever on the receiving end of such treatment, you might then appreciate how such things have an enormous impact on our system of laws, justice and, indeed, fundamental fairness. I'm neither particularly old, jealous, lonely or bored nor, like you, am I hiding behind a screen name.
Brett Kaiser September 14, 2012 at 05:26 PM
>> I'm neither particularly old, jealous, lonely or bored Old----ish ;-)
WestOranger October 16, 2012 at 03:02 AM
She never behaved unprofessionally. People are playing a game of connect the invisible dots with this story. Every little thing suddenly becomes suspicious and unusual that was obviously foreshadowing these accusations. Oh and as long as we're referencing petty pop culture movies, she shouldn't be "punished for being well-liked."
WestOranger October 16, 2012 at 03:07 AM
You're so very right. Rumors floating around a highschool full of hormonally wired boys are always on point. God...worse than herd animals.
WestOranger October 16, 2012 at 03:14 AM
First off, "heels." Last time I checked, looking fashionable wasn't punishable by law, or grounds for suspension. Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps the lookers were the ones at fault? No, of course not, a woman's body is obviously there to be looked at. By that logic, I can bet that you'll agree that a woman should be wary of what she wears because if a man finds her too attractive and rapes her, it will be HER fault.
WestOranger October 16, 2012 at 03:27 AM
Gary's right. Those are incredibly vague pieces of so called evidence that hold little to no weight whatsoever. It seems you've almost completely absorbed everyone else's "reasoning" behind why these accusations must be true. Please stop perpetuating the accusatory thought process behind a witch hunt. Stick to Tumblr if you want to pretend to be opinionated.
Status Quo October 16, 2012 at 07:34 AM
Bạn là một thằng ngốc. In answer to your point #1, since you claim to know that one can register multiple multiple accounts from a single IP address, checking the IP addresses of "formerstudent", "Concerned Mom", and "Status Quo" should put your tiny mind at rest since distince IP addresses would indicate, even to one as dense as yourself, that the accounts do not originate from behind the same router.
Just Saying February 19, 2013 at 11:44 PM
Hi Sylvia- Oh my - just reading these comments and I have to stop "mid-Sylvia" b/c of all your typos! There is a red squiggly line that appears beneath a word when you misspell it. You can 'right click' on the misspelled word and select the correct spelling. (ha! I just misspelled misspell but corrected it!) I'm not intending to be mean, but I am not the only one who cannot STAND reading something with so many errors. It takes away from the points you are trying to make. Being that you have a young child you have ample time to improve before your own child starts correcting you! Sorry but I just couldn't ignore this and hopefully you will take this as constructive criticism.
Joanna Ellison February 20, 2013 at 02:42 AM
If she did it. We only have the word of a child who may be lying!
Joanna Ellison February 20, 2013 at 02:44 AM
I would not take the word of a 15 male student. He could be lying to impress his buddies by saying he nailed a teacher. He mostly a virgin
Former Student May 06, 2013 at 09:46 AM
I definitely believe it. Hence the fact of her flirting with students, and her weird touching and hugging of her "favorite" students


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