A New Jersey educator, who was named the Essex County "Teacher of the Year" in 2011, has been accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student.
The 33-year-old teacher was arrested at the end of August and charged with multiple felonies including endangering the welfare of a child, second-degree sexual assault, and first-degree aggravated sexual assault.
Prosecutors allege she had a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy who was in her Honors English classes at West Orange High School. According to court documents, the relationship lasted from June 15 to Aug. 28 of this year.
Charges such as these can be extremely damaging to your reputation, and it is important to mount a strong legal defense. While the teacher clearly had to be popular with her students to be honored as "Teacher of the Year," already former students are turning on her in the media
In news stories, former students say there have always been rumors that the teacher was promiscuous. Her former students also accuse her of being flirtatious and self involved.
In addition to damaging her reputation, the accusations are placing the teacher's career in jeopardy, which often happens when someone is accused of sexual misconduct. According to news accounts, the school district where the woman works has suspended her indefinitely.
The accusations are not just hurting the woman's reputation and career. They may also lead to a lengthy prison sentence if a jury convicts her of the alleged crimes. Even though there have not been reports that the teacher has a prior criminal record, a judge set her bail at $100,000.
As the woman's defense team works to keep her out of prison, her attorneys will also want to try to mitigate the long-term impact on the woman's life. If she is convicted, the woman will be forced to register as a sex offender. In New Jersey, there are three different levels of sex offenders and very different restrictions associated with the different levels.
Source: Huffington Post, "'New Jersey 'Teacher Of The Year' Arrested For Sexual Assault; Erica DePalo 'Eccentric,' Student Says," Steven Hoffer, Sept. 5, 2012