The case against a West Orange teacher from Montclair charged with a having sexual relationship with one of her students has been referred to a grand jury, according to the Essex County’s Prosecutor’s Office.
Erica DePalo, 33, pleaded not guilty in September to charges that she had a sex with a 15-year-old student who attended her honors English class at West Orange High School.
DePalo was originally scheduled to appear in court on Monday. However, it was canceled because she will have to appear before a grand jury, said prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Katherine Carter.
DePalo, who was chosen as the 2011-12 County Teacher of the Year, is facing charges of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault, and endangering the welfare of a child.
Representing DePalo is Anthony Alfano.
The grand jury will decide whether or not to indict DePalo. If she is indicted, she could face a trial or she could attempt to work out a plea deal with the prosecutor's office. In a plea aggreement, DePalo would have to plead guilty to some of the charges in exchange for a reduced sentence. The grand jury proceedings are secret and may not be concluded for several weeks.
DePalo began her tenure at the high school in 2003. She was an English teacher and was also the junior varsity tennis coach at the school.
Her relationship with the student began around July 15 and ended Aug. 28, according to the prosecutor’s office.
She was arrested on Aug. 31 by the prosecutor’s office and was charged in Newark at the Veterans Courthouse. She immediately posted bail of $100,000 and was released later that day.