I was out of town last week and returned Friday to catch up on the local news. I discovered a headline in the Contra Costa Times: “Ex-student sues district over sex abuse.”
To say I was – and remain – overjoyed at the news would be an understatement.
There might finally be justice in the swamp of cover-up that is the Moraga, Calif., school district.
That ex-student is a former middle-school student, and now an assistant head coach of the women’s swim team at U.C. Berkeley, Kristen Cunnane.
She is suing the Moraga School District, as well as principal Bill Walters, assistant principal Paul Simonin and superintendent John Cooley. All three men are retired,
The lawsuit charges the district and the individuals named with negligence, fraudulent concealment, conspiracy to commit fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
I’ve written five WND commentaries (June 17, June 24, July 1, July 8 and July 15) on the ongoing cover-up of prolonged sexual abuse and rape of middle school students at Joaquin Moraga Middle School in the small, northern California community of Moraga.
The keys to the scandal that the school district has diligently ignored was a headlined investigation by the CCTimes in June, detailing the horrific experience of Kristen Cunnane that started when she was 11 and a student in that school in the mid-1990s.
Her experience included being molested in a classroom by a male science teacher, Dan Witters, and repeated molestation and stalking by a female P.E. teacher, Julie Correa.
The newspaper investigation involved access to internal district documents, which detailed how the district and the officials involved failed to follow the law and report the allegations of sex abuse of students.
Tragically, Kristen wasn’t the only victim. There’s evidence at least seven other students complained to officials, but nothing was done to protect the children or to report the incidents to police, as was required.
Who knows how many others were assaulted?
Interestingly enough, as soon as it was learned in June 2012 that the newspaper had access to internal files concerning the incidents, Bill Walters promptly resigned his post as principal of a district elementary school and retired. He’d been principal of the middle school during Kristen’s abuse.
In fact, the newspaper investigation revealed that in 1994, another student wrote to Bill Walters about her abuse by teacher Dan Witters, dating back to 1991.
Instead of contacting police, Walters waited months and then showed the teacher the letter. Witters denied everything. Even though other administrators knew of the situation, nothing was done.
There were other complaints about Witters, one of which was a memo from teacher Julie Correa to Walters, as reported in the Times, that she saw and knew about “Witters kissing, licking and touching students inappropriately.”
It wasn’t until those seven other students complained that police were notified. Witters was suspended in 1996.
Witters killed himself within days by driving off a cliff.
Apparently the district thought it was off the hook – nothing happened to those officials or to Julie Correa, who in the interim was stalking and raping Kristen.
The horror and shame of her experience kept Kristen silent, until she could take it no longer. She reported the abuse to the police in 2010. Correa was found living in Utah, charged with 23 felony sex crimes, pleaded no contest to four and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Ever since the CCTimes broke Kristen’s story, I have attended every school board meeting and Moraga town council meeting.
At each, I have asked the board to have an independent outside investigation of what happened so the people of Moraga would know who knew what and when and what was and wasn’t done.
At each meeting, I spoke my piece, and the board and the school superintendent, Bruce Burns, looked at me blankly, saying and doing nothing.
At town council meetings, I had two requests: Issue a letter of support for Kristen, which they did within two days.
As for my request for them to ask the school district to have an outside investigation of the situation and report the results to the public, nothing.
I was told they can’t order the board to do anything.
Uh, I said ask, not demand.
I was told by a council member that such a letter would imply they “didn’t trust” the school district.
It would appear there’s reason not to trust the district, but since so many of the same people who were there then are still there, it appears to an outsider – me – that there’s a lot of “CYA” going on.
Kristen Cunnane filed a claim against the school district last month, which was denied.
There was absolutely no mention of that at any of the board meetings. I was at all of them. It’s another instance of keeping the people of Moraga in the dark.
In addition, citizens do not know the board voted to extend Bruce Burns’ contract by one year. He’s at the end of the first year of a three-year contract; no change in pay.
I was there and asked directly, “Why?”
They replied “everyone does it,” because it’s so hard to find “good people.”
I guess it’s a lifetime deal, no matter what he does or doesn’t do.
They’re also planning a new parcel tax, but that hasn’t been reported in the media, either.
The district is touting its “new” sex abuse reporting plan, as though they’re doing something historic. Actually, they’re finally paying attention to what has long been required by law. They just didn’t abide by it and now they want credit for protecting the children.
It’s a little late for that.
To paraphrase the favorite preacher of the man who is president, “Moraga’s Chickens have come home to roost!”
It’s about time. Thank you, Kristen, for your courage.