The Riverhead school district has settled a lawsuit brought by the parent of a Pulaski Street School student who claimed she witnessed the school principal and a teacher engaged in “a sexually inappropriate act” in the school’s orchestra room in November 2019.
The student, then a 6th-grader, said she looked through a door window into the orchestra room and saw then-principal David Densieski standing close to music teacher Christina Mercurio, who “had her skirt lifted up above her waist, exposing the lower half of her body,” according to court documents.
A 2020 lawsuit filed on the child’s behalf by her father against the district, the principal and the teacher, sought damages for emotional distress and negligence.
The suit also sought damages for “negligent retention” of Densieski and Mercurio, claiming that the district was made aware of previous inappropriate behavior on school property when a student reported to a faculty member that he/she had seen the principal and teacher kissing. That earlier incident was then reported by the faculty member to the school’s assistant principal, according to the complaint.
The suit against all parties was settled for $20,000, with the payment to the child being made by the school district’s insurance company, according to court records. The settlement was finalized in State Supreme Court yesterday following a proceeding called an infant compromise hearing and a court order authorizing the child’s father to settle the child’s claim.
Densieski and Mercurio were reassigned by the district to separate administrative offices after the incident was reported, then-superintendent Aurelia Henriquez confirmed on Nov. 15, 2019. She declined comment, citing “active personnel investigations.”
Densieski remained assigned to the district office from November 2019 until June 2020, when he retired.
Mercurio, who had been reassigned to the pupil personnel services office in November 2019, was subsequently transferred to Aquebogue Elementary School, where she remains a faculty member.
Riverhead School Superintendent Augustine Tornatore declined comment on the settlement. “The district does not comment on personnel issues,” Tornatore said in an email.
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