Two women file $15 million claims against school district after being sexually assaulted by science teacher
Two women have both filed a $15 million lawsuit against a California school district alleging they condoned sexual abuse by a former school teacher.
The women, whose names have been withheld, said they were sexually assaulted on multiple occasions in 1996 by Dan Witters, a science teacher at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School.
Witters was placed on leave after the allegations were made, and he killed himself two days later, although he was never charged with the crimes.
Scene of the abuse: The Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School, where science teacher Dan Witters allegedly abused students in the 1990s
Both women now accuse the Moraga School District of receiving multiple complaints of inappropriate behavior from Witters, but chose to do little or nothing to stop it.
They only recently learned of the school’s alleged behavior through an investigation on the local news, which led to their lawsuit.
Retired Moraga Intermediate School principal Bill Walters, retired assistant principal Paul Simonin and retired superintendent John Cooley are the district employees accused by the women of helping with the abuse.
“County administrators, civil servants and employees chose to protect their own jobs and reputations rather than protect young girls from a predator,” the Contra Costa Times claims.
Lawsuit: Kristen Cunnane filed similar lawsuits against the Moraga School District this year, saying the school’s “careless environment” allowed the abuse
“After Witters committed suicide, (the) Moraga School District undertook a campaign to hide and cover up its knowledge of previous grievances against Witters.”
The lawsuit is not the first filed against the school, which has accused her and the teacher of sexual abuse.
Kristen Cunnane, now 30, was the first to file a lawsuit alleging Witters abuse.
Former swim coach Cunnane said “a relaxed environment” provided by the school allowed for the noxious environment.
Ms Cunnane’s claim was denied in August with her lawsuit for unspecified damages filed in September.
“We’re not talking about a slap on the butt or a rub on the shoulder,” women’s advocate David Ring told the newspaper. “We are talking about extremely serious sexual abuse.
“Their reaction… ranged from shock to dismay to anger. They couldn’t believe it. Her mindset has always been that Witters did this to us… and tried to deal with this problem.
“So when they found out about all the other complaints that the district had received, it was a big setback for them because they realized that this should never have happened to them because the guy shouldn’t have been teaching at the school.”