A veteran New Jersey teacher who once had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl and got her pregnant — all while he was a Catholic priest — can keep his middle-school job, an arbitrator ruled.
Former Rev. Joseph DeShan, 59, began teaching in the Cinnaminson school district in 1996 — six years after he impregnated the teen, who worked in his parish rectory in Bridgeport, Conn., the state ruling said.
Cinnaminson school officials didn’t learn of the illicit relationship until 2002, when it surfaced in the press.
DeShan, who had left the priesthood years prior, was suspended for three weeks but eventually returned to the classroom.
Then last year, district officials alleged that DeShan made a 12-year-old student uncomfortable while commenting on her “pretty green eyes,” according to the ruling.
“Look at me,” DeShan allegedly told the girl. “Let me see your pretty green eyes. You don’t see them too much anymore.”
DeShan purportedly made the creepy remark in a “weird voice,” according to the seven-page ruling.
The former priest was accused of “conduct unbecoming of a staff member” by the district in December as parents requested that their children be removed from his classroom, according to the April 2 ruling.
The parents said their children felt unsafe being taught by a “rapist” and a “pedophile” who had no business being around juveniles, especially those close in age to the girl he impregnated, the document said.
But the arbitrator ruled that the allegation involving the female student’s eyes was hearsay and did not warrant DeShan’s termination.
“The [Board of Education] … insinuates that the comment was laced with improper intentions and sexual connotations,” wrote state Department of Education arbitrator Walt De Treux.
“Yet it provides no non-hearsay evidence of the basis for that implication.”
And despite the changes in “parental and societal views” that district officials say now make DeShan unfit for a classroom, arbitrator Walt De Treux wrote in his ruling that the teacher cannot lose his job for conduct they’ve known about for 17 years.