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Claims against Riverhead School District dismissed in sexual misconduct case involving former principal

A federal judge has dismissed claims against the Riverhead Central School District and several district officials in a civil lawsuit regarding sexual misconduct by its former high school principal, court records show.

All claims against the principal, Charles Regan, are ongoing.

In a decision issued Monday, U.S. District Court Judge William F. Kuntz II dismissed several claims of civil rights violations against the district, including those arising from allegations suggesting other school officials knew about the misconduct of Mr. Regan and past indiscretions allegedly reported in another district.

“Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to support a reasonable inference that anyone, let alone any school official with authority, other than Defendant Regan, knew about [the] sexual harassment,” Judge Kuntz wrote.

“The complaint is completely devoid of facts that show any school official even suspected Defendant Regan’s misconduct,” the decision continued. “At most, [the facts in the suit] suggest someone should have suspected there was an inappropriate relationship, not that anyone had actual knowledge of an inappropriate relationship.”

The allegations against Mr. Regan first became public days after he was placed on paid reassignment in April 2019, when attorney John Ray of Miller Place held a press conference at his office with the student and her parents.

Anastasia Stapon was an 18-year-old senior at the school when she said a mentor relationship developed with Mr. Regan. She said the principal would send her sexually charged text messages, videos and photos to her during and after school hours. She also said he forcibly kissed her during a meeting in his office.

Anastasia Stapon at a press conference in May 2019 with her attorney John Ray and parents. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Mr. Regan resigned that August, the same month Ms. Stapon’s lawsuit, which alleges the principal used his authority to “sexually groom [her] for his harassment, sexual assault, battery and abuse,” was filed in federal court. A 200-page text message transcription was attached to the complaint, as were graphic photos sent by the principal to the student.

The lawsuit named as co-defendants with Mr. Regan and the school district several past administrators, including former superintendents Nancy Carney and Aurelia Henriquez, along with current and former members of the board of education.

While Judge Kuntz dismissed the federal civil rights claims in the suit and claims that the district and individual officials caused emotional distress, he declined to address several state law claims against the defendants “at this stage of litigation.”

Attorneys representing the district and its current and former officials had filed the motion to dismiss in June 2020.

Mr. Regan has not filed any similar motions to dismiss the allegations against him. In February 2020, he fired the attorneys he had initially hired to represent him and despite urging from that firm and the judge to seek new counsel, court records show he has not yet done so and is currently representing himself by default.

The disgraced administrator is facing an additional lawsuit filed by Mr. Ray on behalf of a former student from Mr. Regan’s time as a coach and administrator in the Eastport-South Manor School District. That former student, now in her 30s, claimed Mr. Regan had a sexual relationship with her while she was a minor and a member of a school basketball team he coached. A similar motion to dismiss was filed by attorneys for that district and its officials last November, but the judge in that case has not yet ruled on it.

While Riverhead police confirmed they had opened an investigation in April 2019 into the allegations made by Ms. Stapon against Mr. Regan, he was never charged with a crime.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Mr. Regan was fired by the district. He resigned.