A retired teacher has been arrested and charged with sexually abusing students in the elementary school where he taught for decades on Long Island, New York.

Thomas Bernagozzi, 76, of Babylon, was arraigned Thursday in Suffolk District Court in Central Islip on felony charges of sodomy and sexual conduct against a child.

The charges stem from Bernagozzi’s tenure as a third-grade teacher in the Bay Shore public school system between 1970 and 2000, prosecutors said.

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One victim said they were abused by him between 1997 and 2000 while another victim said they were abused between 1989 and 1991.

Bernagozzi also faces 45 civil lawsuits filed on behalf of his former students, following passage of a state law in 2019 that allowed anyone claiming to have been abused as a minor to file a civil action up until the age of 55.

Prosecutors say Bernagozzi had been “revered” by teachers and parents alike and ran the school’s plays, after-school sports and often took groups of children to local beaches, pools, and even Broadway shows and sporting events.

“The sheer magnitude of what this defendant is alleged to have committed is astounding,” Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney said in a statement following the arraignment. “This defendant allegedly betrayed the trust of his students, their families, and the community.”

Steven Maloney, superintendent of the Bay Shore Union Free School District, which is also named in the civil suits filed by former students, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment Friday. But in a statement posted on the district website, he said the school system was cooperating with law enforcement officials and had no other information about the matter.

“This former employee has not been affiliated with the District since 2000,” Maloney wrote.

Bernagozzi was released Thursday without bail but under GPS monitoring and is due back in court Dec. 26. He didn’t comment following the appearance and his lawyer didn’t respond to an email seeking comment Friday.