CINNAMINSON — A New Jersey board is revoking the teaching certificate of a school teacher and former Catholic priest who fathered a child with an underage girl, a move that many feel is long overdue.

John DeShan can no longer teach in New Jersey, the State Board of Commissioners ruled. He must turn over all copies of his credentials and certifications to the state by Feb. 19.

The board found that DeShan "exercised poor judgment in his interactions with several minor children" and that he didn't understand the gravity of his actions.

New Jersey 101.5 has contacted Cinnaminson Superintendent Stephen Cappello for comment.

Cinnaminson Memorial School (Google Maps/Canva)
Cinnaminson Memorial School (Google Maps/Canva)

Fathered child with a 16-year-old girl in the 90s

DeShan's fathering of a child with a teenage girl in Connecticut over 30 years ago was controversial when it emerged in 2002. But he managed to keep his job as a school teacher for over two decades.

The girl, a member of DeShan's youth group, became pregnant with his child in 1989 two days after her 16th birthday, according to Connecticut newspapers. She is now 50 years old.

At the time, she was immediately fired from her job as a receptionist at the cathedral. The then-reverend was placed on a leave of absence.

Reporting on Joseph DeShan by the New York Times in 2002. (New York Times archives)
Reporting on Joseph DeShan by the New York Times in 2002. (New York Times archives)

When the story erupted in 2002, DeShan was already teaching in Cinnaminson. He had remarried and had two children with another woman.

Despite the scandalous affair, DeShan was not fired.

Complimented teen student's eyes

DeShan's controversial past reemerged in 2015 after he complimented a female student's "pretty green eyes," according to the commissioners report.

The girl said the comments made her feel uncomfortable.

However, DeShan continued to argue in October 2023 that there was no evidence he had engaged in conduct unbecoming of a teacher.

School board tried to revoke tenure

In 2019, the school board sought to remove DeShan. However, an arbitrator for the state Department of Education ruled that DeShan must be allowed to continue teaching.

DeShan said at the time that he should not be punished for "pre-employment conduct" that had already been addressed.

The decision, which has been overturned, said the complaint in 2015 was hearsay. There was no record of who the girl reported the compliment to, whether it was investigated, or how the compliment disrupted her education.

A petition started in 2019 calling for DeShan's firing gained nearly 750 signatures. That was not enough to sway the arbitrator.

“The fact that some parents now demand his removal from the classroom does not give the BOE a second opportunity to revisit pre-employment conduct of which it has been long aware," the 2019 decision said.

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