In 2011, teacher Erica DePalo was awarded the Essex County, New Jersey Teacher of the Year award. On Friday, DePalo was arrested after being accused of taking part in a sexual relationship with one of her students. The student, 15, was one of her Honors English students. Students at the school where DePalo works were shocked by the claims made against the teacher.
“I was kind of shocked,” Arnold Ajondo said. ”I was a little surprised. She was really close with the students and we all liked her. She was always there after school if you ever needed any help.”
DePalo has been charged by police with second-degree sexual assault, first-degree aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child. It is believed that the relationship between the teacher and the student began on June 15 and came to an end just last week.
A statement was released by the West Orange School District about DePalo’s arrest, which said, “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.”
“She was interesting and she was fun and she made me want to go to class,” said Evan Cumming, a former student. “She never seemed like (someone who would do) the allegations I’ve heard. It doesn’t seem like something she’d do.”
DePalo is employed at West Orange High School and has been there since 2003.