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Morass of school sex abuse gets worse

Posted By Barbara Simpson On 11/11/2012 @ 1:24 pm In Commentary,Opinion | No Comments

Hey – the 14-year-old middle-school girl was raped, stalked and mentally and sexually abused by her female middle-school teacher, Julie Correa, in Moraga, Calif.

But, gee, according to the female defense lawyer, it wasn’t rape because the kid really wasn’t “forced” to have sex and besides, the two had a “human relationship.”

You’d think she’d know a 14 year old can’t consent to sex with an adult. How do these lawyers look themselves in the mirror?

Kristen Cunnane, of Walnut Creek, Calif., was that child and now, as a woman, is finally dealing with the demons caused by the atrocities that took place over several years, starting when she was 11.

Kristen reported the situation to the police in 2010. The teacher was located in Utah and ultimately charged with 23 felony sex crimes, pleaded no contest to four and is in prison for eight years.

Kristen told her story in detail to the Contra Costa Times which printed it at the end of May, this year. That’s when I saw it and decided to follow the issue. (See my WND columns of June 17, June 24, July 1, July 8, July 15 and Sept. 30.)

I wondered how the small-town school board would handle what clearly appeared to be negligence, dereliction of duty and apparently a widespread cover-up of what happened in Joaquin Moraga Middle School in the late nineties. In fact, many of the same people are still active in the district, which makes the story all the more interesting.

At the time of Kristen’s abuse, there were at least seven other children who were abused, and another teacher, Dan Witters, was implicated. As evidence against him grew (but no legal charges), he drove his car off a cliff. As far as the district was concerned, that was that.

Since Kristen’s story was published in May, I attended school-board meetings and the town council meetings. I repeatedly asked both bodies to publically support Kristen and asked the board to have an independent investigation and report to the public what did happen. I believe parents deserve a full accounting.

All they did was assemble a group of people to look into how the district handles abuse cases and come up with a plan, which parallels what the law already requires. There was no letter of support for Kristen and no independent investigation.

The town council did publish a letter of support for Kristen, but it refused to ask the school board to have an independent investigation of the situation.

But then Kristin dropped the other shoe: She sued the school district and three now retired officials for negligence, fraudulent concealment, conspiracy to commit fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

If the town circled the wagons when the first story was made public, the lawsuit tightened the web of silence. Two members of the town council told me they knew why the district didn’t respond to my request but that I should talk to the superintendent, Bruce Burns.

Before I had a chance to ask him, the district filed a legal response to Kristen’s lawsuit, which said she was careless and negligent and that she was responsible for what happened.

And, on top of that, anything the two teachers did was “outside the course and scope of their employment” so the district had no liability!

Never mind that many of the occasions of abuse took place in classrooms, but since rape and sex abuse weren’t part of teacher job description, the district is not responsible!

How do lawyers look at themselves in the mirror?

Things got more complicated at the end of October when two more women filed claims against the district and the three administrators. The women are identified as Jane Doe 1 and 2. Their charges are in the same time frame as Kristen Cunnane’s and also name the male teacher, Dan Witters.

There was public outcry against the board for claiming Kristen, the victim, was responsible for the crimes against her. The board had a four-hour closed meeting last week, took a vote and then announced an apology to Kristen.

The board voted 4-0.

A  4-0 vote? There are five people on the board. It seems board President Dexter Louie recused himself.

Really? Why?

This is the same man who had all kinds of concerns over the new board “abuse reporting” formalities and caused several delays in the final wording because he wanted to be certain that those reports were made.

He missed a closed meeting the week before, citing “personal reasons.”

All the while, he was running for re-election to the school board. There were three seats open; he was the only incumbent running and, indeed, he was re-elected on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, he resigned. No reason given.

It’s amazing what you find out when you pay attention to what does and doesn’t happen, what people say and don’t say, what they do and don’t do and when you keep asking questions. For someone in my line of work, you often find yourself digging deeper in muck.

Louie has been on the school board since 1998, the time when all these allegations of sex abuse of students were taking place. Remember, at least seven students were involved.

I’ve learned that at the sentencing hearing for Julie Correa, the woman who raped Kristen Cunnane, there were character witnesses supporting Correa.

Among them, two people who play into what’s happening now.

One was Barbara Cardinal, who praised Correa but who also admitted in her testimony that a teacher in the school sexually abused her.

Following her, was Mrs. Patricia Louie – who also praised Correa.

Yes, Patricia Louie, the wife of the school board president who just resigned. They are the parents of Barbara Cardinal, who had just admitted to being abused at the school.

Could those be the reasons Dr. Louie recused himself? Perhaps things are getting too hot in the Louie household.

Do you wonder when he’ll surface again?

I do.

Do you think the truth will ever come out?

Do you wonder who the two “Jane Does” are?

I do.

Will there be others? I hope so. Only time will tell.

The next school-board meeting is tomorrow. I can hardly wait!

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