OVID, N.Y. May 19 2019 — A school resource officer in Seneca County had a romantic relationship with one of the students she was hired to protect, deputies said.
Elisia M. Panipinto, 20, of West Covert Road, Interlaken, was arrested Thursday night by the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office and charged with official misconduct, police announced Friday in a news release.
She is accused of using her position as an Interlaken police officer to have an inappropriate relationship with an eighth grader, deputies said.
Panipinto, then an officer with the Interlaken Police Department, was assigned to serve as as a school resource officer in the South Seneca Central School District at the time of the incident, deputies said. She used her authority as a police officer to have time with the child in the school and develop a “physical, romantic relationship,” deputies said.
There is no evidence Panipinto and the student had sexual contact or that there are other victims, deputies said.
In a statement released Friday, South Seneca Superintendent Stephen J. Parker Zielinski said the district was shocked by the accusations made against Panipinto, a South Seneca alumna. He thanked the community members who shared their concerns.
“The witnesses helped to make sure we could catch the situation early,” the superintendent said, “and to prevent it from developing further.”
Deputies started investigating Panipinto after a complaint was filed with the sheriff’s office by the Interlaken Police Department and the South Seneca Central School District.
Panipinto has been charged with official misconduct and endangering the welfare of a child, both misdemeanors.
At arraignment, her bail was set at $250 cash or a $500 bond. She was released from the Seneca County Correctional Facility Thursday morning, custody records show.
The investigation remains open, the sheriff’s office said, and deputies are conducting more interviews. Deputies asked anyone with information about the case to call (315) 220-3240.
As of early Friday afternoon, Panipinto was still listed as an officer on the Interlaken Police Department’s website.
Zielinski, the superintendent, said the investigation has been hard on the South Seneca community.
“For our school, it is especially difficult because every person involved is someone we care about,” he said. “We are committed to acting in our students’ best interests to keep them safe, which is a prime reason why we seek the use of school resource officers in the first place.”