Cinnaminson Teacher Previously Accused of Sex Abuse Keeping Job
By Anthony Bellano
May 2, 2019
A veteran teacher of 22 years in the Cinnaminson Public School District who allegedly impregnated a teenager when he was priest in Connecticut has come under fire over the past several months for comments he made to a female student.
But a state arbitrator has dismissed the district's attempt to have him removed from his position, saying the attempt is based on "hearsay," according to court records.
"We are disappointed in the ruling, and we are currently evaluating what options we have moving forward," Cinnaminson Superintendent of Schools Stephen Cappello said.
Joseph DeShan began teaching at Cinnaminson Middle School and Rush Elementary School in 1996, two years after he left the priesthood. When DeShan was a priest in Bridgeport, Connecticut, he fathered a child with a 16-year-old student, according to court records.
That relationship was reported by newspapers in Connecticut in 2002, and his name appears on a list of credibly accused diocesan priests and accused religious order priests who served in the Diocese of Bridgeport.
He wasn't charged with any crimes because the woman told her story after the statute of limitations in Connecticut had expired, according to the Harold J. Gerr Law Firm.
Once the alleged pregnancy story became public, he was placed on administrative leave by the Cinnaminson Public School District Board of Education for about three weeks before being allowed to return to work, according to court records.
Sixteen years later, the school district filed tenure charges asking for DeShan's removal for conduct unbecoming a staff member. The complaint specifically relates one instance in which DeShan told a female student, "Look at me. Let me see your pretty green eyes. You don't see them too much anymore."
The student reported that the comment made her feel uncomfortable, and that DeShan made the comment in a "weird voice."
The complaint also claims many parents are asking for their students to be removed from his class, calling him a "rapist," a "pedophile" and asking the district to "please protect our children."
Arbitrator Walt DeTreux said the district's charges are based on "hearsay and rumor," stating that officials said "it was reported" that the teacher made these comments. There is no evidence that the school investigated the matter, DeTreux said.
He goes on to say that it isn't clear who the student reported the incident or that she was uncomfortable to, or how the superintendent came to know about the incident. Therefore, the teacher wasn't given a proper avenue to defend himself.
DeTreux also said the school district already addressed his alleged relationship when reports first surfaced, and parents expressing concerns in public don't give it a second opportunity to revisit the issue.
The teacher also hasn't committed a crime during his 22 years in the school district, DeTreux said. DeTreux ordered the school to reinstate the teacher with full backpay and benefits.