A settlement was reached in a lawsuit against the Bay Shore school district in an alleged sexual assault case involving former teacher Thomas Bernagozzi. Credit: Newsday/James Carbone

A settlement has been reached in the first of 45 pending Child Victims Act lawsuits against the Bay Shore school district involving a former teacher accused of sexually abusing scores of students, the school board announced at its meeting Wednesday night.

The claim was settled by an insurance company for the district, board of education president Jennifer Brownyard said. She did not disclose the terms of the settlement or discuss the specifics of the case, which court records show was filed by an anonymous plaintiff who alleged he was sexually abused by former third grade teacher Thomas Bernagozzi while he was a student in his class from 1995 to 1996.

“This claim has been settled subject to a confidentiality agreement and will be paid directly by the insurance carrier,” Brownyard said. “While they are unable to provide details, we felt that it was important to share that a settlement had been reached.”

Brownyard said the district will not be able to rely on insurance carriers to cover the cost of most future judgments and settlements.

“Although this particular case was covered by insurance and resolved with insurance funds, the majority of the other Child Victims Act cases, the district has no available insurance at this time,” she told the audience at the meeting.

Neil Block, an attorney representing the district, said at the board’s last public meeting on March 25 that the district has insurance coverage for six of the cases alleging abuse by Bernagozzi during his 30-year career, from 1970 to 2000. The district is in dispute with insurance companies in 11 cases, while other claims are under review or the companies are now defunct, Block said.

The announcement of the settlement came on the same day Newsday published online the escalating legal fees the district is facing, having already compiled more than $600,000 in bills to defend the claims since 2020. Brownyard acknowledged the reporting in her statement.

“The amount reported in this story does represent the district's ongoing response to those cases during the last four years,” she said.

Bay Shore received invoices totaling $593,645 from Ingerman Smith LLP, an education law firm based in Hauppauge, and $21,965 from Silverman & Associates, a White Plains firm that focuses on litigation. The district has sued Bernagozzi in each case, arguing he should be held responsible instead of the school system.

A pair of residents spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, expressing frustration over a lack of information being shared by the district about the cases, including a reluctance to publicly speak about policies protecting children from future abuse. One woman attempted to read a statement from an alleged victim of Bernagozzi, but was told she was not allowed to address the school board on behalf of someone else, whose name was not shared and may not be a resident of the district, a requirement to speak at the meetings.

The recently settled case had been slated for trial April 1, but was delayed one week before settling at that time. A second civil case is scheduled for trial later this month.

Suffolk police arrested Bernagozzi, 75, at his Babylon home in December. He pleaded not guilty to separate charges of sodomy regarding one former student and sexual conduct against a child involving another former student. Prosecutors have said they believe he abused “scores of students” during his tenure, many of whom have not filed lawsuits.

Bernagozzi, who is free on $600,000 bond, and attorney Samuel DiMeglio, of Huntington, declined to comment following a brief appearance before Acting State Supreme Court Justice Karen Wilutis in Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverhead on Thursday morning. The criminal matter was adjourned to June 18 following a conference in the judge’s chambers.

A Newsday investigation last month found that while Bay Shore district officials knew of at least five alleged incidents in his 30 years of teaching, they never moved to fire Bernagozzi.

The Child Victims Act, signed into law in 2019, opened a temporary window for alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits seeking damages. Before the law's passage, survivors were prevented from filing suit once they turned 23. The window to file claims closed in 2021.

A settlement has been reached in the first of 45 pending Child Victims Act lawsuits against the Bay Shore school district involving a former teacher accused of sexually abusing scores of students, the school board announced at its meeting Wednesday night.

The claim was settled by an insurance company for the district, board of education president Jennifer Brownyard said. She did not disclose the terms of the settlement or discuss the specifics of the case, which court records show was filed by an anonymous plaintiff who alleged he was sexually abused by former third grade teacher Thomas Bernagozzi while he was a student in his class from 1995 to 1996.

“This claim has been settled subject to a confidentiality agreement and will be paid directly by the insurance carrier,” Brownyard said. “While they are unable to provide details, we felt that it was important to share that a settlement had been reached.”

Brownyard said the district will not be able to rely on insurance carriers to cover the cost of most future judgments and settlements.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A settlement has been reached in a Child Victims Act lawsuit against the Bay Shore School District involving a former teacher accused of sexually abusing scores of students, the district said.
  • The claim, filed by an anonymous plaintiff who alleged he was sexually abused by former third grade teacher Thomas Bernagozzi while he was a student in his class from 1995 to 1996, was settled by an insurance company for the district, board of education president Jennifer Brownyard said.
  • The district did not disclose the terms of the settlement.

“Although this particular case was covered by insurance and resolved with insurance funds, the majority of the other Child Victims Act cases, the district has no available insurance at this time,” she told the audience at the meeting.

Neil Block, an attorney representing the district, said at the board’s last public meeting on March 25 that the district has insurance coverage for six of the cases alleging abuse by Bernagozzi during his 30-year career, from 1970 to 2000. The district is in dispute with insurance companies in 11 cases, while other claims are under review or the companies are now defunct, Block said.

The announcement of the settlement came on the same day Newsday published online the escalating legal fees the district is facing, having already compiled more than $600,000 in bills to defend the claims since 2020. Brownyard acknowledged the reporting in her statement.

“The amount reported in this story does represent the district's ongoing response to those cases during the last four years,” she said.

Bay Shore received invoices totaling $593,645 from Ingerman Smith LLP, an education law firm based in Hauppauge, and $21,965 from Silverman & Associates, a White Plains firm that focuses on litigation. The district has sued Bernagozzi in each case, arguing he should be held responsible instead of the school system.

A pair of residents spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, expressing frustration over a lack of information being shared by the district about the cases, including a reluctance to publicly speak about policies protecting children from future abuse. One woman attempted to read a statement from an alleged victim of Bernagozzi, but was told she was not allowed to address the school board on behalf of someone else, whose name was not shared and may not be a resident of the district, a requirement to speak at the meetings.

The recently settled case had been slated for trial April 1, but was delayed one week before settling at that time. A second civil case is scheduled for trial later this month.

Suffolk police arrested Bernagozzi, 75, at his Babylon home in December. He pleaded not guilty to separate charges of sodomy regarding one former student and sexual conduct against a child involving another former student. Prosecutors have said they believe he abused “scores of students” during his tenure, many of whom have not filed lawsuits.

Bernagozzi, who is free on $600,000 bond, and attorney Samuel DiMeglio, of Huntington, declined to comment following a brief appearance before Acting State Supreme Court Justice Karen Wilutis in Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverhead on Thursday morning. The criminal matter was adjourned to June 18 following a conference in the judge’s chambers.

A Newsday investigation last month found that while Bay Shore district officials knew of at least five alleged incidents in his 30 years of teaching, they never moved to fire Bernagozzi.

The Child Victims Act, signed into law in 2019, opened a temporary window for alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits seeking damages. Before the law's passage, survivors were prevented from filing suit once they turned 23. The window to file claims closed in 2021.

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