Community members spoke up at Tuesday evening’s Riverhead school board meeting to demand that an outside investigator examine the allegations against reassigned high school principal Charles Regan.
Earlier this month, Riverhead High School senior Anastasia Stapon, 18, filed a notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, alleging that Mr. Regan attempted to manipulate her when she suffered from depression. 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 Mr. Regan and Ms. Stapon since January. She also alleges Mr. Regan sexually assaulted her in his office April 30.
Following her report, the school district reassigned Mr. Regan and prohibited him from entering school grounds. The incident is under separate investigations by Riverhead police and the school district. At this time, no criminal charges have been filed against Mr. Regan.
School district attorney Christopher Venator of Ingerman Smith, LLP offered limited new information about the investigation.
The district is continuing to collect information and is sending documentation to police as necessary, he said. The district plans to move forward with formal charges against Mr. Regan, Mr. Venator said, and the school board will be taking action regarding the investigation next month. He did not provide any additional details.
Mr. Venator added that Christina Tona, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, was involved in the initial investigation and reviewed questions concerning the personnel issue. The matter was later turned over to him and Ingerman Smith to provide the district with legal advice.
Ron Hariri of Aquebogue said the board owes Riverhead taxpayers an independent investigator that is not tied to the school system.
“The fox shouldn’t be guarding the hen house,” he said. “Your $200,000 principal spent his time in this school preying on a teenage student. You owe the taxpayers of our town an apology.”
Hiring an independent investigator has been discussed by the board, Mr. Venator said, but no decision on that possibility has been made at this point.
Dhonna Goodale of Flanders said the community is upset with the school board and feels as though the administration and staff have been protecting Mr. Regan by not discussing the investigation publicly.
Board member Gregory Meyer said he’s frustrated that he can’t speak up about the personnel issue, but is obligated to follow district policy.
“I don’t want to sit here with a blank expression on, but unfortunately we really can’t do much about it,” he said. “We can’t answer some of your questions.”
Former board member Amelia Lantz said she doesn’t understand why it’s difficult to add an independent investigator.
“That should be a three-second decision, that would be acting aggressively toward the situation,” she said. “Stretching this out … like this is not acting aggressively.”
Mr. Venator said that under Section 30-28 of New York State education law, the school district has a legal obligation to pay Mr. Regan during his reassignment.
“We’ve done all that we can do to move quickly on this situation,” he said. “We are continuing to move in order to take appropriate personnel action, but we have to follow the state education process.”