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Plum student claims IUP reneged on his teaching prospects

| Saturday, May 17, 2008

Derek Delach's plan to become a teacher has been sidetracked because of a gambling conviction while he was a college student in Florida.

The 28-year-old Plum resident filed suit Friday against Indiana University of Pennsylvania for breach of contract because the university dropped him from its masters of education program after the school was unable to place him as a student teacher.

When he was an undergraduate at Florida State University, Delach was a central figure in an on-campus gambling operation that included then FSU quarterback Adrian McPherson, who ran up an $8,000 gambling debt with Delach.

Delach pleaded no contest in 2003 to felony bookmaking and was sentenced to two years' probation and 30 days at a sheriff's work camp, according to published reports.

Delach, who graduated from Florida State in 2001, was accused of accepting gambling bets from students in 2002. Police searched Delach's home, seizing a computer and other records during the probe. Delach was working as a bartender at the time in a nightspot that was a popular hangout for students and athletes.

According to his lawsuit, Delach said he disclosed his arrest and was told the probationary sentence was similar to the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program in Pennsylvania. A person charged with a certain crime can be placed in ARD for a period of good behavior and have his arrest expunged upon completion of the program.

Delach enrolled at IUP for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years. He began taking classes at IUP's Monroeville campus. Last June, he met with IUP officials to discuss his legal problems in Florida and he was told that his arrest in Florida "wouldn't affect his participation in student teaching."

The lawsuit states that in 2007 Delach was advised that he would not be able to complete the program and obtain a degree because Franklin Regional School District would not accept him because of "his involvement in the criminal incident in Florida."

Delach said he quit his job to enroll at IUP, paid tuition for the two-year program, purchased textbooks and spent money on gas traveling between IUP's main campus in Indiana and the Monroeville branch, according to the lawsuit.

In a Sept. 4, 2007 letter accompanying the lawsuit, Mary Ann Rafoth, dean of the College of Education and Educational Technology, told Delach his record "gave rise to concerns by those school districts and with all of the school districts with which Indiana University of Pennsylvania has affiliation agreements," Rafoth wrote.

"Because you cannot complete the internship, you cannot fulfill the degree requirements. Because you cannot fulfill the degree requirements, you cannot continue in the program."

State law requires that applicants for teaching jobs, student teachers, administrators, substitute teachers, office workers, must undergo background checks that include any criminal history information and obtain a child abuse clearance, according to the state Department of Education.

Delach declined to comment on his lawsuit, which was filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. His attorney, Joseph Talarico of Pittsburgh, was unavailable for comment. Michelle Fryling, a spokesman for IUP, declined to comment.

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