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Moraga School District Insurers Settle Sex Abuse Suit For $2.85M

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(CBS)

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MORAGA (CBS SF) — The Moraga School District’s insurance company has reached a $2.85 million settlement with a former student for sexual abuse claims, district officials announced this week.

The district’s insurance company will pay former student Kristen Cunnane, who filed the suit against the district and three former administrators in connection with sexual abuse suffered in the 1990s at the hands of two former teachers.

One of the two teachers, Dan Witters, later committed suicide before he could be prosecuted. The other, Julie Correa, is now serving an eight-year prison sentence after being convicted of rape and sexual battery in 2011.

In the suit, Cunnane alleged that former school principal Bill Walters, former assistant Principal Paul Simonin and then-superintendent John Cooley failed to act after receiving complaints of sexual misconduct by the teachers at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School.

The suit also alleges that the former administrators’ failure to act and protect students’ welfare led to her being sexually abused hundreds of times over a five-year period by Correa.

Three additional suits against the district by other anonymous former students stemming from Witters’ alleged misconduct are still pending.

In a statement issued via her attorney, Paul Llewellyn, regarding the settlement, Cunnane, now an assistant swim coach at University of California at Berkeley, said she is grateful to have reached a settlement with the district and its insurance company.

“I look forward to continuing to raise awareness around preventability and encouraging school districts everywhere to do everything they can to keep their schools safe. I also hope that sharing my experience has helped others who may be in the grips of abuse or struggling with its consequences,” she said.

District Superintendent Bruce Burns also released a statement about the settlement on behalf of the district.

“First and foremost, we want to again apologize to Ms. Cunnane and to her family for the abuse she suffered as a child and for the pain it has caused,” he said. “It is our hope that this settlement will help Ms. Cunnane continue to heal, and allow the district to continue working to educate and protect the children entrusted to us.

Burns said that the district has beefed up its student safeguards, going beyond what is required of the district by state law.

He said the district worked with the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa County, or CAPC, to update its student safety training program for teachers.

In January, the district teamed with neighboring school districts in Lafayette and Orinda to hire a full-time educator at the CAPC to provide a safety program for students and parents at all three districts, Burns said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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