(Meredith) -- A man who impregnated a 16-year-old girl when he was a priest will be allowed to keep his job as a middle school teacher in New Jersey, a state arbitrator ruled.
Joseph Michael DeShan was a priest at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1988 when he engaged in longterm sexual abuse with the then-14-year-old girl. Church records list DeShan's birth year as 1959, which would make him 29 when the abuse started.
The girl worked in the church rectory, according to the Connecticut Post. She became pregnant less than two years into their relationship when she was 16.
According to church records obtained by the Connecticut Post, the girl was fired from her rectory job and DeShan was removed from the ministry in 1989. The police were not informed of the situation, according to church records.
DeShan is included on a list of current and former clergy members credibly accused of sexual abuse released by the Diocese of Bridgeport. The church lists him as having one single allegation.
According to NJ.com, DeShan said the relationship with the teenager was consensual, and he was never prosecuted in Connecticut due to the statute of limitations law on sexual abuse.
In 1990, DeShan was hired as an elementary school teacher in the Cinnaminson School District in New Jersey. Now age 60, DeShan works as a sixth grade reaching teacher at a middle school teacher in the same district. He is listed as having a master's degree in elementary education.
In 2002, school officials learned of DeShan's previous sexual abuse allegations with the teen during his time as a priest. He was placed on leave for three weeks while the school investigated, according to NJ.com. But the website reports that DeShan was allowed to return to the classroom after parents and students rallied to his defense.
The issue came up again earlier this year when parents of current students found out about DeShan's past. They complained to the school board, and tenure charges were filed against him in January.
But arbitrator Walt De Treux for New Jersey's state Department of Education ruled April 2 that DeShan's past was not enough to stop him from teaching because "he did not engage in inappropriate conduct while holding public employment [teaching]."
The Cinnaminson School District said they were not happy with the arbitrator's ruling.
"The district is disappointed with the decision and currently exploring options to resolve the matter. However, it is our district policy to refrain from comments regarding open personnel and legal matters. The well-being of our entire school community is always our highest priority," Stephen Cappello, Cinnaminson’s superintendent of schools, said in a statement to NJ.com.
The school district's board of education can appeal the decision to the state Department of Education.