Retired Bay Shore teacher charged with sexually abusing students

Taught at Mary G. Clarkson Elementary from 1970-2000


Thomas Bernagozzi, a retired Bay Shore third-grade teacher, has recently been arrested for allegedly sexually abusing students under his care. Bernagozzi is facing felony charges of course of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree and sodomy in the first degree.

Between the years of 1970 and 2000, the 76-year-old Babylon resident worked as a third-grade teacher at Gardiner Manor Elementary School and Mary G. Clarkson Elementary School in the Bay Shore Union Free School District. Bernagozzi was allegedly revered by staff and parents during his tenure as teacher. After his teaching career ended, the retired teacher was employed by the district until 2003 and allegedly was very involved with the school’s plays and after-school sports. On his own time, Bernagozzi allegedly took groups of children on a variety of trips to the local beaches, pools, gym, Broadway shows and sporting events.

Due to the passing of the New York State Child Victims Act, this case was able to be criminally prosecuted. The New York State Child Victims Act, signed into law on Feb. 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 opened between Aug. 14, 2019, and Aug. 13, 2021, allowing victims who would not benefit from the new law going forward to file their civil claims from years past.

Under the Child Victims Act, 45 individual victims filed lawsuits against both the Bay Shore Union Free School District and Thomas Bernagozzi, for Bernagozzi’s alleged sexual abuse.

Bernagozzi was arrested on Dec. 21 and charged with one count of course of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree and one count of sodomy in the first degree, both Class B violent felonies. 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 1989 and 1991, and the other victim was allegedly abused more recently, between 1997 and 2000.

“The sheer magnitude of what this defendant is alleged to have committed is astounding,” said Suffolk County district attorney Raymond A. 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.”

The Bay Shore School District is fully cooperating with Suffolk County police.

“This former employee has not been affiliated with the district since 2000,” explained Steven J. Maloney, superintendent of Bay Shore Schools. “At this time, we have no further information regarding the matter. We remain committed to ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of our students.”

Bernagozzi pleaded not guilty during his 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 Hon. Edward J. Hennessey ordered him placed on supervised release with GPS conditions.

Anyone with any additional information regarding Bernagozzi is urged to contact Detective Patrick Boyles of the Suffolk County Police Department’s Special Victims Section at (631) 275-2302.