Tiny Moraga, proud of its schools and the achievements of its students, now also has the dubious distinction of paying out a record $14 million settlement to former students who were preyed on sexually for years while district officials looked away.
The district has agreed to pay out $14 million to two former students – in addition to nearly $5 million in settlement monies awarded to two other past students last year – as the district, town, and school officials come to terms with a shameful history of unprecedented sexual predation and willful administrative coverups.
District Superintendent Bruce Burns, who was not involved in the systemic coverups which started after the actions of two predatory teachers came to light in the 1990s, and who has worked to change reporting procedures in the district, issued the latest in a series of public apologies Tuesday.
Video: The Moraga School District board addresses complaints of sexual abuse of its students at the hands of their teachers after news of lawsuits surfaced last year.
“They were innocent victims,” Burns wrote of the district’s former students, “abused at a young age by someone in a position of trust. The betrayal of that trust caused real and lasting suffering. It is our hope that this settlement will allow these women to continue to heal and help them and their families move forward. It also allows our district to continue the work we have begun to improve student safeguards and be worthy of the trust parents place in us.”
In exchange for the monetary settlements, paid for by the district’s insurance, the victims agreed to drop their lawsuits against MSD.
Lawsuits filed by the four former students alleged retired Principal Bill Walters, retired Assistant Principal Paul Simonin and retired Superintendent John Cooley each failed to report allegations of sexual abuse by biology teacher Daniel Witters, who killed himself by driving off a cliff after allegations of abuse surfaced in 1996.