The Centereach High School teacher was “administratively reassigned” to report...

The Centereach High School teacher was “administratively reassigned” to report to the district office on Dec. 20, but resumed her full teaching assignments Jan. 30, records show. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

A Centereach High School teacher who was accused by a student of making racist and sexist remarks, and found by a school investigation to have violated district policy, resumed teaching in late January after being removed from the classroom a month earlier, district records showed.

Jennifer Brunet, a tenured special education teacher at the high school, was “administratively reassigned” to report to the district office on Dec. 20, but resumed her full teaching assignments Jan. 30, according to a letter and a settlement agreement Newsday obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request.

Isabella Rexach-Moore, 18, a senior at the high school, said Brunet, her math teacher, said last September when taking attendance in class: “I can’t deal with these Black kids always being absent." The school substantiated this allegation after an investigation by high school Principal Thomas Bell, according to a Dec. 16 letter Bell sent to inform Rexach-Moore and Brunet of the investigation result. 

Bell’s investigation also substantiated several allegations by Rexach-Moore concerning three other incidents on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, including Brunet commenting on the 12th-grader’s attire and body in front of her class and speaking to her in a tone that an assistant principal who observed one interaction noted as “inappropriate.”

Bell wrote he determined that several of the allegations “of bullying and/or harassment are found and thus did violate District Policy.”

Rexach-Moore, who is Black, called her teacher’s comments racist and sexist, and said they included body-shaming language that she said made her “feel little.” She has called for Brunet’s firing.

The settlement, which Brunet and district Superintendent Roberta Gerold signed Jan. 25, stipulated that Brunet work as a substitute teacher, though at her normal contractual rate, from Jan. 25 through 29.

Brunet lost 10 sick days and was required to read “Establishing Respectful Relationships with Students Requires Intentional Interactions Over Time” and “Effective Communication in the Classroom: Skills for Teachers,” the settlement said. The materials total 24 pages.

Brunet did not respond to a request for comment but in the settlement “denies the allegations and any wrongdoing whatsoever.”

For the 2022-23 school year, Brunet’s earnings are $136,052, according to her employment records. Brunet began working in the district in 2007 and also worked there in the late 1980s and '90s.

Unaware of the settlement until a Newsday reporter read her the terms, Rexach-Moore said Tuesday she was disappointed in the district’s handling of Brunet’s discipline.

“I don't think the punishment fits the crime,” she said. “[I’m] disappointed overall that the school district that me and my siblings attend doesn't take bigots seriously and that they allow them to still teach young minds.” 

Gerold wrote in a statement Wednesday that the agreement the district reached with Brunet was a result of a "thorough" Dignity for All Students Act investigation.

"All actions taken by the district, and all stipulations in the agreement agreed to by Ms. Brunet, were in full compliance with DASA guidelines and applicable law," her statement read in part.

Rexach-Moore’s attorney, Vess Mitev, on March 14 filed a notice of claim — a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit against a school district.

A Newsday investigation earlier this month found school districts reprimanded dozens of educators through the use of confidential settlements rarely discussed in public — similar to the one approved by the Middle Country school district and obtained via open records requests.

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