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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pinellas teacher faces firing after paying student for sex



A Pinellas School District investigation has concluded that a Seminole High School teacher's effectiveness has been "diminished" after he allegedly met a 17-year-old male student at a bar, took him to his apartment, and paid him for sex.

School district records show that the St. Petersburg Police Department investigated Gerald DiPanfilo last summer on a charge of engaging a minor in prostitution. The police report includes a detailed account of sexual activity between DiPanfilo, 55, and the minor, who was a Pinellas County Schools student.

DiPanfilo provided a statement to police during the criminal investigation in which he admitted he had sex with the student but denied knowing the student was a minor. He said he may have given money to the minor, but later told school officials he was unable to recall what happened because of the amount of alcohol he had consumed.

The student told police that DiPanfilo gave him money to purchase crack and for sex, according to school records.

The police department referred the case to the State Attorney's office, which did not file formal charges against DiPanfilo. Instead, the case was turned over to the school district's Office of Professional Standards. School officials concluded that although DiPanfilo was not charged with a crime, "his effectiveness as a teacher as been diminished. As a teacher and leader of young people in this community, Mr. DiPanfilo has an ethical and moral obligation to be absolutely sure he initiates personal relationships only with persons who have obtained the age of legal consent and who are not students in Pinellas County Schools."

DiPanfilo was reassigned to the district's warehouse during the investigation, where he has been absent from work for 25 days, school records indicate.

The school district hired DiPanfilo as an elementary art teacher in 1992. He taught at Madeira Beach Middle School before transferring to Seminole High in 1997. His evaluations have been satisfactory, with the exception of a caution for misconduct from his principal in 2000.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show DiPanfilo was arrested in April and charged with driving under the influence and possession of drugs without a prescription. He was adjudicated guilty in July and was ordered to pay fines and serve probation.

Pinellas school superintendent Clayton Wilcox has recommended that DiPanfilo be fired based on violation of several School Board policies, including inappropriate sexual conduct including but not limited to lewd and lascivious behavior, indecent exposure, solicitation of prostitution, sexual battery, possession or sale of pornography involving minors and sexual relations with a student.

DiPanfilo has requested an administrative hearing.

- Donna Winchester, Pinellas education reporter

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:33am]


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