A teacher’s aide at a Bucks County, Pennsylvania, school shot herself in front of a 14-year-old boy whom she was accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with.
Jennilynne Derolf was 38 at the time of her death. She was initially arrested on July 15 with charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, institutional sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, and other related offenses. She was free on bail, which had been set at $90,000.
The relationship was discovered by the boy’s grandparents, who saw that Derolf had been texting her student through an app called Discord. Police were first notified of the relationship on July 13.
Derolf was employed at Valley Day School in Falls Township, which focuses on students who have special needs. According to the boy, the relationship started out friendly yet soon turned sexual. In the weeks before her arrest, police allege that Derolf and the student had sex in her car at least three times.
“She not only violated the trust required in any student-teacher relationship, but also that trust that children should be able to have in all adults of authority,” said District Attorney Matthew Weintraub in a statement after her arrest, per MSN. “She will be held accountable for her criminal acts.”
But instead, she took matters into her own hands.
After she was free on bail, Derolf secretly contacted the boy and scheduled a meeting. The boy’s grandparents discovered this and contacted police. When police arrived, Derolf reportedly pulled out a firearm and killed herself in front of him, leaving him physically uninjured but emotionally scarred.
The officers at Falls Township Police Department are still trying to piece together what happened. It’s unclear what Derolf may have said to the boy prior to the suicide. But one thing’s for sure — she’s done an incredible amount of damage to him, and it’s important he knows he’s not at fault.
Why is it so normalized? It’s not funny, and it’s not an “interesting plot point”, it’s just downright disgusting. Believe it or not, those kind of things do actually happen in real life, and the consequences and trauma that come from it are not fun. Makes me sick to my stomach.
— Mark’s Green Hoodie from 𝙏𝙖𝙧𝙜𝙚𝙩 (@suhnflowerr) January 5, 2021
According to her professional profile, Derolf had worked at Valley Day School since 2019 as a special education paraprofessional. Before that, she worked at Delta-T Group as a special education student aide. Prior to her career as a teacher’s aide, she reportedly did office work at Groendyke Transport for seven years.
Valley Day School has yet to issue any sort of statement on what happened. However, Derolf isn’t visible on its website. It’s unclear whether or not the school will choose to address the issue or try moving on from it. Hopefully, at the very least, staff will make sure that the victim has all of the healing resources he needs if he chooses to continue attending the school.
Wanting accountability for teachers who harm students doesn’t mean I hate teachers. Wanting accountability for police officers who harm/kill people doesn’t mean I hate police officers.
Wanting accountability for men who harm/kill womxn doesn’t mean I hate men.
— Alyson Kaneshiro, Ed.D (@alykaneshiro) August 5, 2020
The incident is a reminder that it’s always important to make sure we know what’s happening at our children’s schools. Most often, schools are a safe and caring place for students. But sometimes, an adult might cross the line. Students need to realize that they’re the victims in situations like these.
It’s important to tell children to never meet a teacher or school official outside of school, unless it’s for an event that parents also know about and approve of. Witnessing a suicide is also bound to add trauma to an already difficult situation. It’s unfair for the student, who likely expected nothing more than an education.
Not much is known about Derolf, but it’s possible more details may emerge as the case continues to be investigated. It’s unclear if her friends and family knew about the relationship, and also unclear whether or not they discouraged it from happening in the first place. Hopefully, all parties can heal from this tragic, preventable circumstance.