The Moraga school district's response to a child sexual abuse victim's lawsuit crosses the line of decency by blaming her for being "careless and negligent" and contributing to the crime committed by her middle schoolteacher.
The district's tone-deaf legal filing raises questions about its approach to sexual abuse cases and indicates, as we look at Tuesday's election, that it's time for leadership change.
In this case, there remains no question a criminal act occurred. PE teacher and sports coach Julie Correa is serving an eight-year prison sentence for raping the girl when she was 14. Blaming the victim sends a chilling message to others who might consider coming forward.
We first thought the district's defense might just be the work of an overzealous attorney. But on Friday, after the school board met in a special meeting (one that appears to have been improperly announced), the superintendent reaffirmed the misguided response.
The district statement said the victim and this paper "over-exaggerated" the importance of the defense because it was one of nine raised. That misses the point: The district might have legitimate defenses against civil liability for the actions of its teacher and administrators. But blaming the child is not one.
As Stephen Sugarman, a UC Berkeley law professor who teaches tort law, told reporter Matthias Gafni, "If the district sticks to this sort of hardball tactic it could well backfire and increase both the likelihood of the defendants being found liable and the amount of damages awarded against them."
This brings into question trustees' judgment. On the eve of the school board election, it leaves us deeply concerned about 14-year Trustee Dexter Louie, the only incumbent in a three-way race for two seats.
We're told by the superintendent that Louie did not attend the board's Friday closed session for personal reasons. We don't know more, or what role he has played in approving this legal defense, because he has not responded to our calls and emails.
We do know he has been part of, and is currently president of, an insular board for a district that kept a principal on the job after learning he had failed to report sexual abuse, and that dragged its feet on releasing records about the case.
Ultimately, it's Louie's refusal to discuss the issue and others with us that leaves us unwilling to consider endorsing him.
Fortunately there are two strong candidates. Shari Simon, former president of the Moraga Education Foundation and the parent of two children currently in district schools, brings extensive budget experience from her years as an Oracle senior vice president. Parker Colvin, who has three young children, would add school finance expertise from his job as the head of municipal underwriting for one of the bond industry's leading firms.
We're impressed by both and think they would bring much-needed fresh perspective.