New Jersey 2011 teacher of the year arrested for child molestation

Erica DePalo 
By: Ryan Lee Hall 

A teacher who was voted the best of 2011, was arrested for child molestation last week, according to police reports.

The teacher was arrested for having sex with a 15-year-old student. She posted bail on Tuesday, authorities said.

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray said that West Orange High School teacher Erica DePalo, 33, of Montclair, New Jersey, was charged on Friday, with first-degree aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault in the second degree and endangering the welfare of a child.

DePalo, who was named Essex County Teacher of the Year in 2011, allegedly began a sexual relationship with the unidentified male in June, and continued sexual contact with him until the end of August.

The student was in the class of this teacher, who taught English, West Orange Detective Louis Mignone said in a news release.

DePalo also worked as a coach of the tennis school junior varsity, authorities said.

Judge Martin Cronin set bail at $100,000. DePalo was released on bail, but had not yet been arraigned, officials from the Office of the Essex County Prosecutor said.

Jim O'Neill, the School District interim superintendent of West Orange, said that DePalo had been suspended indefinitely. Counselors will also be available for students, he said.

"The school district will cooperate with the prosecutor's office in every way," O'Neill said in a statement. "The West Orange School District is proud to be invested in health, safety and welfare of our students," he added.