MORAGA (KCBS) – The Moraga Country Club has reversed a decision to cancel a speech and clinic by a UC Berkeley swim coach and sex-abuse victim and has re-invited her with an apology, following a wave of criticism over the decision.
Kristen Cunnane went public in May with her story of being inappropriately touched by a science teacher who years later killed himself following more reports of student molestations. Cunnane said the physical education teacher she told at the time did not report the inappropriate touching, and instead also raped the 14-year-old.
Cunnane said that abuse continued for three years. The teacher was eventually tried and convicted and in December was sentenced to eight years in state prison.
Moraga Country Club President Thomas Enberg issued a statement saying he made the original decision to cancel Cunnane’s clinic to make sure that the board members were aware of the event and to brace for possible media coverage.
However, according to the Contra Costa Times, people familiar with the situation believe some members of the club’s board and parents sympathized with Bill Walters, principal at Perales Elementary School in Moraga where MCC board member Ruth Burke serves on the PTA.
Walters announced his retirement after he was criticized for not alerting police about another student’s complaint of teacher sex abuse in 1994. That teacher was the one Cunnane had originally accused of inappropriate touching and who killed himself in 1996 as police began investigating numerous sex abuse allegations.
It’s believed some members of the MCC board were worried Cunnane’s appearance would offend Walters, according to the Times.
KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:
Jeff Raleigh, a 24-year-member of the country club, called the original move a mistake.
“We need to make certain that Kristen comes back to the place where she started swimming and tells her story both to her dedication to athletics and the way she stands up to her story of courage to the people of Moraga,” Raleigh said.
“I was just going to talk about my experience as an all-American swimmer at UCLA and an Olympic trial semi-finalist,” Cunnane said, in addition to her time at Cal and her work alongside the first woman to head an Olympic team.
This week, Cunnane’s coaching work at Cal was recognized by the NCAA, which named her the women’s swimming assistant coach of 2012.
Before Thursday’s reversal, one of Cunnane’s supporters, Cathy Morley Forster, said the club was shying away from a teachable moment, and had urged the board to reconsider its decision.
“It’s sad to see that something like this might taint the image of the community, because it’s a great community. And I hope that the Moraga Country Club does the right thing,” Forster said.
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