MONTCLAIR, N.J. – As EAGnews reported in a recent three-part series, the number of reported sexual misconduct complaints against K-12 teachers is exploding all over the nation.

slap on wristIf this disturbing trend is going to be curbed, courts must impose tough sentences on teachers who are convicted of crossing the line.

But will that ever happen? We have to wonder, considering the slap on the wrist given to New Jersey teacher Erica DePalo, who pleaded guilty to having sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old student.

DePalo was given a three-year suspended sentence and will have to register as a sex offender, but will serve no jail time, according to the

DePalo, a former Essex County teacher of the year, agreed to never seek public or government employment again or have any contact with her victim.

Apparently her cushy plea deal was influenced by her claims that she suffered from “depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorder” during the sexual affair, according to the news report.

“She was functioning in the classroom, but she was feeling it inside,” DePalo’s attorney was quoted as saying. “She was heavily, heavily depressed.”

We wonder how her 15-year-old victim was feeling. At the very least we know that his right to a public education was interfered with by the sexual advances of an adult who was in a position of responsibility. DePalo had a professional duty to maintain a proper relationship with her young student, and she failed miserably.

She betrayed her student and her profession, and should have been used as an example by the courts. Instead she was allowed to walk away free, sending a message to teachers everywhere that sexual impropriety with students is not always viewed as a terribly serious crime.

Perhaps one day soon Americans will wake up and realize that the teacher/student sex problem is out of control, due largely to the growing popularity of social media. Teachers have much more intimate contact with students than they had in the past, and too many are taking advantage of it.

This will continue to happen until society decides such behavior will no longer be tolerated and deals with perpetrators in a meaningful manner.

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