Isabella Rexach-Moore at a news conference earlier this year. The...

Isabella Rexach-Moore at a news conference earlier this year. The former Centereach High School student is suing her teacher and alma mater, the Middle Country School district. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A former Centereach High School student is suing her teacher and the Middle Country Central School district, alleging the educator made inappropriate remarks and the district failed to properly discipline her.

The lawsuit brought by Isabella Rexach-Moore was filed last week in Suffolk County Supreme Court and seeks $25 million in damages.

The suit came months after Rexach-Moore, 18, then a senior at the high school, publicly accused her math teacher, Jennifer Brunet, of making racist and sexist remarks.

Rexach-Moore, who is Black, alleges Brunet said during a class in September when taking attendance: “I can’t deal with these Black kids always being absent.” That allegation was substantiated by a school investigation by 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 other allegations Rexach-Moore made, including Brunet commenting on the then-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.”

The investigation concluded that several of the allegations “of bullying and/or harassment are found and thus did violate District Policy,” according to the letter.

Brunet, who could not be reached for comment, was “administratively reassigned” in December, but resumed her full teaching assignments more than a month later, district records showed and Newsday previously reported

The tenured special education teacher also lost 10 sick days and was required to read 24 pages of materials in communication skills with students, according to a settlement she and the district signed in January. Newsday obtained the settlement through a Freedom of Information Law request. 

In the settlement, Brunet “denies the allegations and any wrongdoing whatsoever.”

"The whole situation could have been handled a little bit more carefully," Rexach-Moore said in a phone interview Thursday, along with her attorney, Vess Mitev. “It was just very chaotic and unfair to me as a student."

Thomas Volz, an attorney at Volz & Vigliotta, the district's legal counsel, said in a statement that "the District will not comment on pending litigation and denies any wrongdoing in its investigation or handling of the claims alleged by the plaintiff."

Bell and district Superintendent Roberta Gerold also were named as defendants in the lawsuit. Neither Bell nor Gerold responded to a request for comment.

Gerold said in a statement in April, after Rexach-Moore went public with the accusations, that the agreement with Brunet was a result of a "thorough DASA investigation that was conducted at the time the allegations were brought to the attention of the district. … 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."

Rexach-Moore graduated from high school over the summer and now is studying marine biology at Suffolk County Community College.

With three younger siblings in the district, including a brother starting his freshman year at the high school, Rexach-Moore said she wanted student voices to be heard more. She continues to call for Brunet’s firing.

“I also want the teachers who are in the building and the ones that are to come to know … that if you voice an opinion or a prejudice, that is not OK,” she said. “You can’t just get away with that.”

A former Centereach High School student is suing her teacher and the Middle Country Central School district, alleging the educator made inappropriate remarks and the district failed to properly discipline her.

The lawsuit brought by Isabella Rexach-Moore was filed last week in Suffolk County Supreme Court and seeks $25 million in damages.

The suit came months after Rexach-Moore, 18, then a senior at the high school, publicly accused her math teacher, Jennifer Brunet, of making racist and sexist remarks.

Rexach-Moore, who is Black, alleges Brunet said during a class in September when taking attendance: “I can’t deal with these Black kids always being absent.” That allegation was substantiated by a school investigation by 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 other allegations Rexach-Moore made, including Brunet commenting on the then-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.”

The investigation concluded that several of the allegations “of bullying and/or harassment are found and thus did violate District Policy,” according to the letter.

Brunet, who could not be reached for comment, was “administratively reassigned” in December, but resumed her full teaching assignments more than a month later, district records showed and Newsday previously reported

The tenured special education teacher also lost 10 sick days and was required to read 24 pages of materials in communication skills with students, according to a settlement she and the district signed in January. Newsday obtained the settlement through a Freedom of Information Law request. 

In the settlement, Brunet “denies the allegations and any wrongdoing whatsoever.”

"The whole situation could have been handled a little bit more carefully," Rexach-Moore said in a phone interview Thursday, along with her attorney, Vess Mitev. “It was just very chaotic and unfair to me as a student."

Thomas Volz, an attorney at Volz & Vigliotta, the district's legal counsel, said in a statement that "the District will not comment on pending litigation and denies any wrongdoing in its investigation or handling of the claims alleged by the plaintiff."

Bell and district Superintendent Roberta Gerold also were named as defendants in the lawsuit. Neither Bell nor Gerold responded to a request for comment.

Gerold said in a statement in April, after Rexach-Moore went public with the accusations, that the agreement with Brunet was a result of a "thorough DASA investigation that was conducted at the time the allegations were brought to the attention of the district. … 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."

Rexach-Moore graduated from high school over the summer and now is studying marine biology at Suffolk County Community College.

With three younger siblings in the district, including a brother starting his freshman year at the high school, Rexach-Moore said she wanted student voices to be heard more. She continues to call for Brunet’s firing.

“I also want the teachers who are in the building and the ones that are to come to know … that if you voice an opinion or a prejudice, that is not OK,” she said. “You can’t just get away with that.”

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