NEW JERSEY - A New Jersey teacher who had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl and later impregnated her while he was a Catholic priest will get to keep his job at a middle school.
An arbitrator in the case made the decision in early April, according to court documents.
Joseph DeShan, 59, worked for the Cinnaminson School District at an elementary and middle school for 22 years, according to the documents. He started working there in 1996, two years after he left the priesthood and six years after having a child with a minor.
DeShan was a priest for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport in Connecticut. In 1988, he had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl, who became pregnant and had a child in 1990.
In 2002, Connecticut newspapers began reporting about DeShan’s relationship with the minor. In April that year, the Cinnaminson Board of Education placed DeShan on administrative leave because it was unaware that he was a former priest or of his relationship with a minor.
But after three weeks, he returned to work with no further discipline.
In December 2018, the board then filed tenure charges against him with the New Jersey Commissioner of Education. The charges pushed for his removal from his position for “conduct unbecoming of a staff member.”
The charges focused on his current and past conduct. They also outlined that on one occasion, he told a 12-year-old girl he wanted to see her eyes.
“Look at me. Let me see your pretty green eyes. You don’t see them too much anymore,” he allegedly told the girl, according to the documents.
The girl said DeShan made the comments to her in a “weird voice.”
The seven-page ruling also outlined that parents requested their children be removed from DeShan’s classroom and that their kids felt unsafe being taught by a “pedophile.”
But the arbitrator ruled that the comments DeShan allegedly made to the girl were “hearsay,” there was no evidence of the incident and it was possibly taken out of context.
The arbitrator also stated that DeShan could not lose his job over conduct the district knew about for more than 16 years.
“In the tenure charges, the (board) is not alleging that (DeShan) has engaged in any other past conduct other than the pre-employment conduct,” the ruling said. “The fact that some parents now demand his removal from the classroom does not give the (board) a second opportunity to revist pre-employment conduct of which it has been long aware.”
DeShan was named in a list of church members accused of sexual abuse by the Diocese of Bridgeport, according to the New York Post. He was removed from that ministry in 1989 over one allegation.
According to the school’s website, DeShan teaches sixth-grade reading classes.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.