LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) — A substitute teacher in the Starpoint Central School District who had been charged with having an inappropriate text relationship with the student has had those charges reduced to disorderly conduct.
Nicholas Panepinto, 27, of Tonawanda, was arrested in April 2015 and originally charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.
The student is younger than 17, according to the Niagara County Sheriffs Office.
Panepinto’s LinkedIn page describes him as a substitute in the middle school, for grades 6 through 8, for the past two-and-a-half years.
District officials declined to say whether the student was one of Panepinto’s, or which school they attend.
“We will continue, as we always have, to ensure the safety of our students at Starpoint,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Sean Croft said. “Once we were made aware of this last night, we took swift action to make sure this individual would never be on campus again.”
Panepinto’s biography on LinkedIn says he’s a graduate of Canisius College and the College at Brockport.
Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour said Panepinto had spent at least the past two months texting with the victim, using various social media applications like Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
When asked whether the conversations were of a sexual nature, Voutour said “… it was inappropriate, from the ones that I saw.”
Croft said Wednesday the district took swift action once they learned the nature of the communication, launching their own investigation, barring the teacher from campus and working with the sheriff’s office.
“At this time we’re trying to gather information,” Croft said. “We don’t know a lot. In this day and age, you would hope that professionals would know the line of communication with people younger than them.”
Voutour said the district has been willing in its investigation. In addition to posting a press release on its website, the district also sent out robo calls, urging parents to check their child’s social media accounts in case there are other victims.
“I commend the school district for being fully cooperative,” Voutour said. “Does it irritate us? Yeah, it does. It bothers me a lot.”
Voutour says parents have a right to be angry because their trust was violated.
“We do trust, send our kids to school, we expect them to be safe there. And we expect them to be safe among the adults that are teaching them,” he said. “And that was breached last night.”
Panepinto posted bail early Wednesday, according to the sheriff’s office.