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Attorney urges Riverhead to suspend principal without pay; parents voice frustration to board

05/15/2019 1:16 PM |

About a week after sexual assault allegations were filed against reassigned Riverhead High School principal Charles Regan, the alleged victim, Anastasia Stapon, and her family urged the Riverhead school board through their attorney to suspend Mr. Regan from his position.

Last week, Ms. Stapon filed a notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, alleging that Mr. Regan attempted to seduce her at a time she was suffering from depression and that he repeatedly brought her into his office to tear down her mental and psychological defenses. She plans to sue Mr. Regan, the school district and board members for $10 million.

A May 6 press conference revealed sexually explicit text messages and photos that had been exchanged between the reassigned principal and the 18-year-old student since January. Ms. Stapon also alleges Mr. Regan sexually assaulted her in his office April 30. 

Following that incident, the school district reassigned Mr. Regan and prohibited him from entering school grounds. The incident is under investigation by Riverhead Town police and the school district. At this time, no criminal charges have been filed against Mr. Regan. 

The latest developments occurred Tuesday, when attorney John Ray of Miller Place, representing Ms. Stapon and her family, addressed administrators at a Riverhead Board of Education meeting. 

Mr. Ray asked the board to immediately suspend Mr. Regan without pay, echoing a statement he made at last week’s press conference.

“You should fully expect that the education law … allows you to suspend an employee with or without pay,” he said. “And I believe you should give very careful consideration to that.”

Mr. Ray said local taxpayers should not spend their money paying Mr. Regan.

“The budget money should not be spent, not another penny, to allow this man to continue with pay under these circumstances,” he said. “I would ask you to consider suspending him without pay. Save the taxpayers that much money.”

Mr. Ray added that the principal should be referred to the Commissioner of Education, who could revoke his license. 

“If you’re going to keep this man and allow him to stay on [reassignment] with pay, this would be reckless on your part,” he said. 

Mr. Ray also made allegations of abuse in another unnamed school district. 

Attorney Christopher Venator, representing the Riverhead Central School District, told Mr. Ray that the district has sent a report to the state education department that deals with moral turpitude and licensed teachers and administrators in the district. 

After the meeting, Mr. Ray said he spoke to the board at the request of the family and community members.

“[I spoke] to make the board aware, not only of the imminent danger that this man presents, but also the danger that other employees in this district present, in that they covered up for this man, what he’s done and they know it,” he said. 

He added that the relationships district employees formed with Mr. Regan are “part of the problem.”

“They’re generating and creating an atmosphere for this man to have operated in,” he said.

The attorney said he feels that local police have increased efforts in investigating the claim, but they’re limited in their resources. The investigation would benefit, he said, by bringing in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. He said he’s written to that office on two occasions but has gotten no response. 

Earlier in the meeting, school board president Susan Koukounas read a statement from the board regarding Mr. Regan. 

“The Board of Education is extremely disappointed and outraged about the allegations that have surfaced concerning high school principal Charles Regan,” she said.

The district is working with Riverhead Town police as they continue to investigate whether he should be charged with a crime, she said.

As mentioned in a previous statement from the board, Ms. Koukounas said police and the victim’s family were immediately contacted. As a tenured employee, she said, Mr. Regan cannot be terminated without a hearing. 

“Since this is a personnel matter… the district has limited discretion to share details of information and allegations that have been made,” she told the audience. For the same reason, she said, the board cannot respond to questions or comments related to Mr. Regan. 

But that didn’t stop parents in the district from expressing their frustration and concern to board members. 

While comments were limited to three minutes, some spoke well over that, despite reminders from Ms. Koukounas that their time was up. 

Parent Yolanda Thompson approached the microphone several times. She cited a section of the district’s Code of Conduct that said all sexual harassment is prohibited and that, according to the code, cases of it should be brought to the high school principal or Title IX coordinators. 

Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez said the district’s Title IX coordinators are personnel directors and, while that’s public information, most parents may not know this. 

Gregory Fischer, who has a son in the district, said he believes the board should review decisions made by Mr. Regan in the past five years. 

“This does affect the reputation of the school,” Mr. Fischer said. “And for companies looking to relocate here, school district success is one of the first things they look at.” 

Riverhead resident Dhonna Goodale, who also approached the microphone several times, asked the board to hire an outside investigator who has no affiliation with the district. She later urged the board to listen to the community’s response to the incident. 

“Listen,” Ms. Goodale said, “not hear, because you hear what you want to hear.”

Photo caption: Attorney John Ray speaks at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)

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