Erica DePalo, 33 was recognized as one of the state’s best teachers in 2011. But earlier this week, DePalo was arrested for a series of charges relating to the sexual victimization of a 15-year-old student. Depalo, who taught at West Orange High School, has been removed from the classroom. The accused teacher has not been convicted of any offense and we do not assume the guilt of school staff members who have not yet been convicted. We have seen many regrettable instances where prominent school officials and teachers who have been recognized for excellence in teaching have been arrested and convicted of sexually inappropriate conduct involving students. This sad reality hurts the many educators who do not engage in this type of conduct.
Proper pre-employment screening clearly established and enforced rules regulating interaction between staff. Other measures should be in place to help identify candidates that are not suitable for work with children and to more quickly identify school staff who are attempting to sexually exploit students who have been hired in spite of screening measures.