State report: Ex-Oyster Bay-East Norwich principal had sexual relationship with student at previous school district
Team 12 Investigates has revealed that the former principal of James H. Vernon School in East Norwich had a sexual relationship with a high school student while she was a teacher at her previous school district.
Jessica Bader’s teaching certificate was suspended as a result, according to a scathing New York State Education Department (NYSED) investigation, and the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District has not said whether they knew these details before hiring her.
Bader was removed from her post at the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District barely two months into the new school year and abruptly resigned in October. She had been with the district since 2022 as director of Humanities for grades K-12.
The student relationship happened in 2004 and 2005 while Bader was a teacher in the East Meadow School District. Team 12 Investigates obtained the results of a NYSED investigation into Bader’s character.
According to the report, Bader “clearly admitted that she engaged in inappropriate contact with a male student” and the relationship continued through his junior and senior years of high school.
The relationship was exposed to East Meadow School District leaders by the student’s mother. She found sexual emails between Bader and her son and brought them to the district’s attention. A NYSED hearing officer also said cellphone records showed “substantial contact” between Bader and the teenager.
The assistant superintendent at the time assigned Bader to administrative work and she resigned from East Meadow Schools five days later.
Bader never faced any criminal charges because the student was 18 years of age at the time. According to a NYSED hearing officer, Bader didn’t seem to think she had done anything wrong.
“Her defense appeared to primarily be that the relationship with the student was not inappropriate because it was consensual, that the student was not a minor and that the young man was not a student in her classroom,” wrote Patricia Rodriguez, the NYSED hearing officer on the case. “It was a gross error in judgment to believe that it is appropriate for any teacher to kiss or fondle a student in a classroom setting, whether or not the student was in a classroom taught by that teacher or even if that student has technically reached the age of majority.”
Bader testified that she had a lapse in judgement and that she was “under stress due to the birth of twins and the demands of her personal and professional life.” The education commissioner suspended Bader’s teaching certificate for four years in 2007 at the recommendation of the NYSED hearing officer.
Bader could not be reached for comment by the time of this report.
The suspension explains the gap on Bader’s resume, which Team 12 Investigates obtained through an open records request. Bader left out her time at East Meadow when applying for a job at Oyster Bay-East Norwich in 2022. When asked on the job application if she ever had her professional certificate suspended, Bader answered no.
This is now raising questions about the hiring process at the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District and whether staff are properly vetted.
“They’re supposed to be trusted, responsible individuals. It doesn’t always work out like that so that means the schools really have to do their homework,” said parent Gloria McCain.
The Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District declined to provide a comment for this story.