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Former Teacher of the Year Pleads Guilty to Sex with Underage Male Student – Double Standard? [POLL]

Erica DePalo (Essex County Prosecutor's Office)
Erica DePalo (Essex County Prosecutor’s Office)

If your teenage daughter reported that she’d been having sex with a male teacher, naturally you’d want the book thrown at him; and probably throw a few punches and various loose objects at him as well.

If, however, it’s your teenage son having an affair, however brief, with an attractive female teacher, do you give him an “atta boy?”

When the case first came up regarding the former “Teacher of the Year”, 33 year old Erica DePalo, having an affair with a 15 year old honors student, my first thought was, “where were teachers like this when I was in school?

Then again, I went to an all-boys Catholic high school in Brooklyn manned by the Xaverian Brothers; so that was out of the question.

However, that’s the mindset of us lay people.

The judicial system is supposed to operate on a different model, that of treating crimes of this sort equally.

Not quite here. And part of the blame goes back to our mindset of the gender difference.

We treat adult female on underage male teen sex as a badge of honor; while the adult male on underage female teen sex is beyond disgusting.

According to this:

The superintendent of the West Orange School District where a former Essex-County teacher of the year admitted to having sex with a 15-year-old male student, called the terms of her plea deal “shocking,” today and instructed payroll to discontinue her salary.

(That’s the least they could do.)

Erica DePalo, 33, pleaded guilty to third degree endangerment and admitted in open court yesterday to having sexual intercourse at her Montclair apartment with a student in her honor’s English class.

Under the plea agreement, initial charges of aggravated sexual assault and second-degree sexual assault were dropped and DePalo will be sentenced to a suspended three year prison terms (which means she will not serve time) and a minimum of 15 years under parole supervision. She could have faced up to 10 years if convicted on all charges.

“I think for an adult teacher, in a position of responsibility and authority over an underage child, to engage in sexual relations is about as egregious as anything you could imagine a teaching professional can do,” West Orange Superintendent James O’Neill said. “It’s kind of mind boggling that this plea bargained down to something so lenient.”

DePalo also must register as a sex offender, forfeit her teaching license and cannot seek public employment.

Kathy Carter, spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office called the deal fair. “Every case is unique and stands on its own set of facts. We take into consideration a number of factors including the wishes of the victim and the victim’s family and we believe this was a just resolution of the case.”

In court yesterday, Assistant Prosecutor Tony Gutierrez called the plea justified and said he’d spoken with the family of the boy who said they were happy with it. They were in “something of a relationship,” he said, though as a minor the boy could not legally consent.

In a case in Union County earlier this month a former Union middle school teacher, Robert Gervasi, pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree sexual assault (more serious charges than DePalo pleaded to) and second-degree endangering and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

O’Neill said referring to the Gervasi case, “that’s one reason I’m upset about this. “I’m not sure that kind of a double standard resonates with parents of high school male students.”

How true!


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