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Chappaqua's Sex-Abuse Report Shows Teacher Went From Denial To Silence

Christopher Schraufnagel and his attorney, Stacey Richman, are surrounded by a media scrum as they leave New Castle Justice Court in downtown Chappaqua on July 14.
Christopher Schraufnagel and his attorney, Stacey Richman, are surrounded by a media scrum as they leave New Castle Justice Court in downtown Chappaqua on July 14. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- A newly released internal report from the Chappaqua Central School District covering alleged student sexual abuse shows that then-Horace Greeley High School drama teacher Christopher Schraufnagel initially denied having "inappropriate" contact before declining to comment at a followup meeting.

The sex-abuse report was obtained by Daily Voice in response to the filing of a state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. The inquiry was done pursuant to Title IX, the school district's sexual-harassment policy and the state's Dignity for All Students Act (DASA). The internal inquiry was conducted from June 15, 2015, when sex-abuse allegations first surfaced around Schraufnagel, to Sept. 8, 2015, which was just days after the 12-year veteran educator resigned.

A copy of the internal report can be read here.

The probe states that Schraufnagel was first interviewed on the first day of the probe, when he denied abusive behavior. It notes that he was accompanied by Ray Lucia, a representative from the Chappaqua Congress of Teachers, which is the local teachers' union.

After district administrators spoke with Greeley students, Schraufnagel met with Chappaqua Schools Superintendent Lyn McKay for a followup interview on Aug. 31, 2015. This time, Schraufnagel declined to answer questions due to advice from his attorney.

"Dr. McKay gave the accused an opportunity to respond to each of the allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, but the accused on advice of counsel refused to answer the questions of Dr. McKay," the report states.

Also present at the meeting, the report states, were Lucia and Greeley Principal Robert Rhodes. The report states that the district also interviewed former Greeley students.

The report was prepared by Kusum Sinha, who is the school district's assistant superintendent for leadership development and human resources. Sinha inherited the probe, as she did not assume her post until July 1, 2015.

The probe pertained to Schraufnagel's employment relationship with the district and was separate from what was then an ongoing criminal sex-abuse investigation by the New Castle Police Department. Because Schraufnagel had already resigned by the time the probe was finished, Sinha wrote that she did not recommend taking any disciplinary action against him.

Schraufnagel was charged with several criminal counts in October 2015; the charges, which are still pending, are a felony count of criminal sexual act; four misdemeanor-level counts of sex abuse; and a misdemeanor-level count of endangering the welfare of a child. The allegations involve sexual contact with two students and non-sexual contact with a third.

Last week, New Castle Town Justice Douglas Kraus rejected a plea deal that Schraufnagel agreed to with the Westchester County District Attorney's office. The deal called for Schraufnagel to plead guilty to three counts of child welfare endangerment, serve three years of probation and to be monitored by a sex offender during the sentence. However, the deal's lack of mandatory sex offender registration prompted the judge to reject it.

The district attorney's office has since submitted an amended plea deal, which Schraufnagel has not yet accepted, that is meant to address Kraus' concerns.

The report is heavily redacted, including of its findings, which could provide insight into what the district uncovered regarding Schraufnagel's alleged conduct.

Assistant Superintendent for Business John Chow, who is the school district's designated records-request official, cited a federal statute, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), for redacting material; federal laws supersede FOIL, which is a state law. Chow also cited an exemption under FOIL that allows for governmental entities to withhold intra-agency communications, the latter of which, he wrote, "does not contain factual information, but rather opinion."

Daily Voice's FOIL request also sought to determine whether or not Schraufnagel had disciplinary records in his personnel file; Chow replied that there are none, which was reported on Friday.

The school district, along with Schraufnagel, are facing seven civil actions in state and federal courts from student accusers. Two of the actions are active lawsuits while the remainder involve procedural requests to file lawsuits.

Previous coverage of Schraufnagel can be read here.

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