May 11, 2007 -- A physical education teacher has been charged with sexual assault for engaging in an apparently consensual relationship with a 17-year-old female student she taught and coached at a southern New Jersey high school.
Erica Umosella, a 28-year-old faculty member at Kingsway Regional High School, was arrested Tuesday. She is charged with three sex-related offenses, including first-degree aggravated sexual assault, according to Bernie Weisenfeld, spokesman for the Gloucester County Prosecutor's office.
Prosecutors said that the relationship between the teacher and student played out over the past month in Umosella's apartment in Glassboro, N.J. They did not believe that any sexual behavior took place on campus and said that no other students appeared to be involved.
Police said they were led to Umosella after Ave Altersitz, the superintendent of the Kingsway Regional School District, gave police an anonymous letter she had received about the affair late Tuesday night. The letter was also sent to school principal Thomas Coleman. Altersitz and Coleman met Wednesday with a police officer who works in the school before turning the information over to law enforcement officials.
Altersitz said there was no indication of who sent the letter that brought the relationship the authorities' attention.
The student is a senior at Kingsway Regional High School, Weisenfeld said, where she played on a girl's field hockey team coached by Umosella and was also her student in a health class.
"This is rare for our area," said Russell Marino, police chief for Woolwich Township, one of the area departments undertaking the investigation. "But obviously, these two got exposed."
About 10 percent of all children -- boys and girls, in kindergarten through 11th grade -- report receiving some type of sexual harassment by an adult while in school.
Experts said that while reports of teacher sexual misconduct are rising, it is difficult to know if there has been an increase in the number of actual occurrences of teacher sexual abuse because no previous studies have ever been conducted to give scientists a baseline for comparison.
What is certain, however, is that the vast majority of teachers who harass or abuse their students are men. Men make up just 15 percent of all teachers, yet are responsible for two-thirds of all sexual abuse.
Umosella, a teacher at Kingsway since 2003, was suspended from her teaching and coaching positions effective Thursday. Prior to this incident, Umosella had never been in any trouble as a faculty member. All efforts to reach Umosella by ABC News were unsuccessful.
She was released from police custody after paying $50,000 in bail.