UC Berkeley women’s swim team associate head coach Kristen Cunnane filed a civil complaint alleging that the Moraga School District failed to prevent sexual abuse of her and other students two decades ago.
The lawsuit — filed in the Contra Costa Superior Court on Tuesday — states that school administrators and faculty ignored reports of abuse at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School, which led to multiple instances of teacher-perpetrated sexual abuse and harassment.
The defendants in this civil case include the Moraga School District, retired principal of the Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School Bill Walters, retired assistant principal Paul Simonin and retired superintendent John Cooley.
“This action seeks to address Defendants’ individual and systemic failures, and to provide some measure of just compensation for the horrors Ms. Cunnane suffered as a result of their inaction,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Paul T. Llewellyn, accuses the individuals of various counts of negligence, fraudulent concealment, conspiracy to commit fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“We hope this lawsuit will encourage districts everywhere to do everything they can to keep their schools safe and free from abuse,” Llewellyn said.
Current district Superintendent Bruce Burns said the district cannot comment on the case or the status of any meetings or discussions being held within the district, since the case is pending litigation.
According to the lawsuit, Cunnane’s civil case was triggered after the Contra Costa Times discovered letters in March during an investigation that revealed the school district was aware that sexual abuse and harassment was “rife” at the school but that administrators failed to report it to authorities.
After Cunnane read about the letters dating from 1994 to 1996, in which fellow students reported molestation at the hands of faculty members, she felt like she also had to step forward.
“When I read those letters, I knew I had to take action and hold the school district accountable for what they did,” Cunnane said.
Cunnane said she began having flashbacks of her sexual abuse back in 2010 and went to the police in an attempt to get her life back.
Even before this current lawsuit, Cunnane was embroiled in a similar legal dispute when she testified against her former physical education teacher, Julie Correa, who was sentenced to eight years in state prison last December for the sexual abuse she inflicted upon Cunnane in the ’90s.
“For more than six years … Ms. Cunnane suffered horrific sexual abuse and harassment, including hundreds of instances of rape and sexual battery … at the hands of her teacher, Julie Correa,” the lawsuit reads.
Cunnane testified against Correa just two days after her team won the 2011 NCAA Championships — a win that gave her the strength and support she needed to talk about the incidents that had occurred.
Cunnane also received the NCAA Assistant Coach of the Year award this summer.
Despite the trauma of her past, Cunnane said she has received incredible support from the Berkeley community after coming forward with her experiences.
“We have and will continue to support her and stand right by her side,” said women’s swimming head coach Teri McKeever in an email.
Cunnane said she wanted her team and others to know that as “painful and scary” as abuse can be, coming forward is the best option.
“My team has been a little army for me,” she said. “I wouldn’t have gotten through what happened without my support from Cal.
Chloe Hunt covers crime. Contact her at [email protected]
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Cunnane testified against Julie Correa after the NCAA Championships in 2012. In fact, she testified in 2011.
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