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Sunday, Nov 18, 2018
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Military Academy Says Teacher Tried To Seduce Teen

A Sarasota Military Academy teacher tried to seduce a 16-year-old student by sending her text messages, taking her to the mall and offering her alcohol, a school official and deputies say. On Wednesday, math teacher Steven L. Panitch was fired and arrested on a felony charge of interfering with child custody, essentially accusing the 48-year-old of taking the girl from school without her parent's permission. The girl, now 17, complained to another teacher at the school last month, saying she was uncomfortable around Panitch because he repeatedly sent her text messages. As they investigated, sheriff's detectives learned that one day in March 2007 the girl skipped school with Panitch, spent the afternoon at the Ellenton Outlet Mall and went to his home on Aventura Drive, sheriff's reports say.
At the time, Panitch was not working for the academy. He met the student during the 2006-07 school year, when he was first hired. But Panitch left the following year to take a job with a local nonprofit. He returned to Sarasota Military Academy in 2008. While he was gone, though, he kept in contact with the girl and asked her to skip school so they could go shopping. He picked her up in the afternoon and they went shopping, the arrest report says. Panitch bought himself some shoes. Then he took the girl to his home and invited her in. At first, the student refused. But Panitch, who is married, said he wanted to show the girl his home. After a bit, Panitch offered her alcohol, deputies say. The girl took a Smirnoff Ice, she would later tell detectives, but only pretended to drink it. Panitch then leaned in and asked for a kiss, according to the reports. The girl refused. Later that night, Panitch sent her an e-mail: "I TRUST YOU! And THANK YOU For all three things 'we' did (or did not do) ... a) skipping with me :) b) sipping with me ;) c) saying "no" to me! Two out of three is not bad! THANK YOU and I Trust You! 'Capt' P" Panitch could not immediately be reached and it was not clear whether he had hired an attorney. He denied the episode when confronted by the principal, Dan Kennedy, but later admitted to the attempted kiss during an interrogation, according to reports. It was Kennedy who reported the girl's allegations to sheriff's detectives, the school district, and state education officials. "I have to say he was an excellent teacher," Kennedy said. ""But I absolutely will not tolerate this. This type of behavior is over the top - and any time you hear of something like it, you have to go full tilt to have it investigated."
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