MORAGA -- The Moraga School District announced Tuesday night that its insurance company had reached a $2.85 million settlement with former student Kristen Cunnane in her civil suit against the district and three former administrators over sex abuse claims.

Board President Charles MacNulty made the announcement before a sparsely attended school board meeting, and Superintendent Bruce Burns released a statement:

"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," Burns 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."

Three Jane Does have also sued the district and the three former administrators in separate lawsuits surrounding failures in the 1990s to perform their state mandated duties to report suspected child abuse. Those cases are still pending.

MacNulty stressed that the district's insurance company would foot the bill for Cunnane's settlement, so the general fund will not be affected. He also emphasized changes made to the district's reporting policies making them far stricter than state law.

Cunnane, who was not at the meeting, released a statement through her attorney Paul Llewellyn late Tuesday.


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"I am grateful that the district, its insurers and I have reached a resolution, and that current students and staff will not be adversely affected in any way," she said. "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."

The assistant UC Berkeley swim coach's attorney also praised the agreement.

"We consider this a favorable outcome not only for Kristen, but for victims of sexual abuse in schools across the country," Llewellyn said.

Negotiations between the district's insurance company and Cunnane's attorneys seemed troubled in March, when the two sides met in Contra Costa Superior court and both sides vehemently argued their case. The district's attorneys contended that because Cunnane filed her lawsuit past the statute of limitations, the case should be thrown out. Cunnane's attorneys countered that she could not file on time because she only learned of the administrators' failings after an investigative report by this newspaper.

Public documents released by the district showed that students, teachers and parents warned former Principal Bill Walters and his assistant Paul Simonin of abuse and improper behavior by science teacher Dan Witters, but Witters was allowed to continue teaching, and no one contacted police or Child Protective Services as mandated by law. After those warnings were given, Cunnane and at least three other girls were abused by Witters, who later killed himself before any criminal prosecution.

Cunnane was also sexually assaulted by another Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School teacher, Julie Correa, who was convicted and is serving state prison time.

Since Cunnane came forward and the investigative story broke, the Moraga School District has overhauled its training of teachers and other employees on child abuse reporting. In January, the district teamed with neighboring districts in Lafayette and Orinda to fund a full-time safety instructor who will teach a program to students and parents in all three districts.

As for the three Jane Doe cases pending, the district said it "continues to hope for and work toward a negotiated agreement in these cases."

Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.