Anastasia Stapon appeared at a press conference May 6 alongside her attorney, John Ray, and her parents, Theresa Stapon and Maryann Wojcik. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The school district has an outside law firm representing it in connection with the notice of claim filed by a Riverhead High School student alleging sexual abuse by high school principal Charles Regan.

The law firm was appointed and is being paid for by the district’s insurance carrier, New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal, Superintendent Dr. Aurelia Henriquez said in a statement posted last night on the district’s website.

“The law firm is currently reviewing the circumstances that have transpired this year pertaining to Mr. Regan, as well as reviewing the hiring process that took place when Mr. Regan was first employed by the district in 2006,” the superintendent wrote.

Henriquez said she was writing to update the community and answer some of the questions that have been raised about Regan’s status and the district’s handling of the investigation.

“We sympathize with our community and we know you have questions,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, we are legally prohibited from discussing many details surrounding this situation. Please understand, we are doing our due diligence to ensure the integrity of this investigation.”

The student, Anastasia Stapon, 18, accused Regan of “grooming” her over a period of a few months and sending sexually explicit text messages and partially clothed photos of himself. She says Regan, in his office on April 29, grabbed her and forcibly kissed her on the mouth.

The district said it acted quickly and aggressively upon learning of the allegations, reassigning Regan to his home while an investigation takes place. Henriquez has said the district did everything required by law in response to the allegations, including notifying the police and state regulators.

Since the allegations in Riverhead surfaced, a woman who was a student in the South Manor school district filed a notice of claim with the Eastport-South Manor Central School District alleging that Regan had a sexual relationship with her when she was 16 and 17 years old.

Henriquez said in the statement that the principal will continue to collect his salary while the investigation is ongoing, something that the attorney for the student who filed the notice of claim and district residents have criticized.

“According to New York State Education Law, any certified employee that has tenure in New York State is entitled to due process protections. While there are limited exceptions to this rule, those do not apply in this situation,” Henriquez wrote.

State Education Law requires a school district to hold a hearing before an impartial hearing officer before taking any disciplinary action against a tenured teacher. The law allows for an employee to be suspended pending the hearing but the suspension is generally with full pay, according to the New York State School Boards Association.

A teacher can be suspended without pay while charges are pending if a collective bargaining agreement allows it or the teacher has pleaded guilty or been found guilty of a felony drug crime, or where charges of misconduct constituting physical or sexual abuse of a student are brought and an impartial hearing officer, after a hearing, finds probable cause exists to support the charges — then the suspension without pay may continue for the duration of the hearing process for a period of up to 120 days.

“As has been previously reported during our public Board of Education meetings, our school district attorneys are leading the investigation and providing documentation to authorities, as necessary. It is anticipated that the board will move forward with action at our June meeting,” Henriquez said.

The board will next meet on Tuesday, June 11.

“We thank you for your understanding and patience as we move through this difficult and trying time in our school district,” Henriquez said.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor and attorney. Her work has been recognized with numerous journalism awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She was also honored in 2020 with a NY State Senate Woman of Distinction Award for her trailblazing work in local online news. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.