A former elementary school teacher with the Bay Shore School District has been arrested for sexually abusing two of his former students.
Thomas Bernagozzi, 76, of Babylon, worked as a third-grade teacher at the Mary G. Clarkson Elementary School and Gardiner Manor Elementary School between 1970 and 2000, but was employed by the Bay Shore Union Free School District until 2003. During his tenure, Bernagozzi was allegedly revered by both fellow teachers and staff, as well as parents residing in the district who would specifically request that their children be placed in Bernagozzi’s class. His classes were allegedly comprised predominantly of male children.
Bernagozzi also allegedly ran the school’s plays, after-school sports, and would, on his own time, take groups of children to the local beaches, pools, gym, Broadway shows and sporting events.
The New York State Child Victims Act, signed into law on February 14, 2019, allows any victim who was abused while under the age of 18 to file a civil action up until that person turns 55 years of age. With the passage of this law, a “look-back” window was created, allowing victims who would not benefit from the new law going forward to file their civil claims from years past. The
“look-back” window commenced on August 14, 2019, and was extended on August 14, 2020, ultimately closing on August 13, 2021. As a result, 45 individual lawsuits were filed on behalf of victims against the Bay Shore Union Free School District, as well as Bernagozzi, for conduct alleged to have been perpetuated by him.
Due to the changes in New York’s statute of limitations, this case involving two victims was able to be criminally prosecuted. One of the victims was allegedly abused by Bernagozzi between 1997 and 2000, and the other victim was allegedly abused by Bernagozzi between 1989 and 1991.
On December 21, Bernagozzi was arrested on the felony charges of first-degree course of sexual conduct against a child, and first-degree sodomy, both Class B violent felonies.
At Bernagozzi’s arraignment, the District Attorney’s Office requested that he be held on $1 million cash, $2.5 million bond, or $10 million partially secured bond during the pendency of the case. However, the Honorable Edward J. Hennessey ordered him placed on supervised release with GPS conditions.
“The sheer magnitude of what this defendant is alleged to have committed is astounding,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney. “This defendant allegedly betrayed the trust of his students, their families, and the community. I urge anyone who has been abused to come forward to law enforcement no matter how long ago that abuse occurred. We will investigate thoroughly and seek to hold those responsible accountable for their conduct.”
Bernagozzi is due back in court on December 26.
Anyone with any additional information regarding Bernagozzi should contact Detective Patrick Boyles of the Suffolk County Police Department’s Special Victims Section at (631) 275-2302.