Ex-Priest Named in Abuse Scandal Returns to Teaching

Associated Press State & Local Wire
May 2, 2002

A former priest has resumed his teaching career, returning from a leave he took after reports surfaced that he had a sexual relationship with an underage girl while he was a clergyman in Connecticut.

Joseph Michael DeShan, a fifth-grade teacher at the Eleanor Rush Intermediate School, returned Thursday from three weeks of paid leave.

Cinnaminson Schools Superintendent Sal Illuzzi said the district allowed DeShan to return after finding that no Connecticut or federal charges could be filed against DeShan and that the teacher did not violate tenure rules in New Jersey or lie on his job application.

"I'm not about to discuss my personal opinions on this case," Illuzzi said. "We did everything that you would expect to arrive at this decision."

Neither DeShan nor his attorney returned telephone messages seeking comment Thursday.

Illuzzi said the district has received 16 letters from parents since the reports first surfaced, including 13 offering support for DeShan. The administrator said the teacher was welcomed back Thursday by colleagues and students.

DeShan has taught at the school for five years and has not been charged with any crime.

According to published reports, DeShan's relationship with the unidentified girl began in 1988 while he was serving in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport. She became pregnant the following year and now lives with her daughter in Bridgeport.

The reports said DeShan learned the girl was pregnant in September 1989, told church officials about it and requested a leave of absence. He later volunteered to be laicized, or removed from the priesthood.

However, church officials said they did not learn of the relationship until 1994, which is when DeShan left the priesthood. The woman, now 28, said DeShan sends her a monthly support check of $348 but has no other contact with her or the child.


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