The attorney representing former Riverhead High School student Anastasia Stapon has filed a federal lawsuit against Riverhead Central School District officials and former high school principal Charles Regan following accusations of sexual misconduct.
Attorney John Ray of Miller Place filed the 40-page complaint last Thursday in the Eastern District Court of New York. It alleges sexual assault, battery, abuse and harassment; two civil rights violations; intentional infliction of extreme emotional distress; breach of fiduciary duties; counseling and psychological malfeasance; and two counts of fraud and negligent supervision, hiring and retention.
Mr. Regan was reassigned to his residence with pay April 30 following an accusation of sexual misconduct leveled by Ms. Stapon. In May, Ms. Stapon, now 19, filed a notice of claim against the district, a precursor to a lawsuit. She discussed the allegations publicly alongside Mr. Ray and her parents, Maryanne Wojcik and Theresa Stapon of Riverhead.
The incident is under separate investigation by Riverhead police, who have not yet brought any charges against Mr. Regan.
In June, the Riverhead Board of Education filed disciplinary charges against Mr. Regan in accordance with Section 3020a of state education law. The district also hired an outside law firm to investigate the allegations. That investigation is ongoing.
The lawsuit states that between January and April 2019, Mr. Regan “exercised his position and authority and powers over students” eventually misusing his position to “sexually assault” Ms. Stapon.
The lawsuit claims that during her senior year, when she was 18, Ms. Stapon suffered a “deep mental depression” and frequently used marijuana and alcohol. Mr. Regan neglected his duties to provide Ms. Stapon with the help she needed from family, friends, counselors or teachers and instead “sexually groomed” her, causing her to develop emotional attachment and attraction to him.
Mr. Regan “repeatedly” met with Ms. Stapon privately in his office, where they would stay for extended periods with the door and windows closed, according to the lawsuit.
His efforts prompted Ms. Stapon to give up her assigned school counselor and caused her to fear physical violence by him, the lawsuit states.
Mr. Regan is alleged to have sent “thousands of sexually charged text messages and Facetime calls,” sexually explicit videos and photos to Ms. Stapon during school and non-school hours. A 200-page text message transcription was attached to the federal lawsuit, as were the graphic photos sent by Mr. Regan to the student.
After kissing Ms. Stapon in his office April 29, he demanded she destroy evidence on her cellphone of his behavior, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also states that the defendants involved — which include current and past district administrators and school board members — “should have known” that Mr. Regan was a sexual predator who preyed upon students based on his previous employment as a teacher at Eastport-South Manor Central School District and a dean at BOCES, the lawsuit states.
The suit did not specify a total amount for claims and leaves the sum “to be determined by the trier of fact.”
In an Aug. 2 interview, Mr. Ray said that once the formal lawsuit has been filed, the defendants have up to 35 days to file a formal response, ultimately allowing for both sides to submit and exchange evidence.
He added that he is working to file a similar complaint on behalf of a 2002 Eastport-South Manor graduate who claims to have been sexually abused by Mr. Regan. That alleged victim has not spoken publicly. A notice of claim was filed May 14 with the Eastport-South Manor School District.
Section 3020a of the New York State education law outlines the process and timeline for disciplinary hearings. The Riverhead school district’s attorney, Christopher Venator of Ingerman Smith, LLP, stated at a June board meeting that the district is required to follow that process regarding their charges against Mr. Regan.
All testimony and evidence should be presented and received no later than 120 days from the date charges are filed, in this case June 11, Mr. Venator said. If procedures are completed, a resolution can be expected by the second week in October.
Top Caption: Mr. Regan speaks at Riverhead High School’s 2016 graduation ceremony. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)