Two women file $15m claims against California school district after suffering sexual abuse

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By Nina Golgowski

Two women have both filed a $15 million lawsuit against a California school district accusing them of permitting sexual abuse by a former school teacher.

The women, whose names were withheld, say they were sexually abused multiple times by Dan Witters, a science teacher at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School in 1996.

Witters was put on administrative leave after the allegations were made and he killed himself two days later, despite never being charged for the crimes.

Scene of 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 having received multiple complaints of inappropriate conduct by Witters but chose to do little or nothing to stop it.

It wasn’t until recently that they found out about the school’s alleged behaviour through a local news investigation, prompting their lawsuit.

Retired Moraga Intermediate School principal Bill Walters, retired assistant principal Paul Simonin and retired superintendent John Cooley are the district’s employees accused by the women of assisting in the abuse.

‘District administrators, officials, and employees chose to protect their own jobs and reputations rather than protect young girls from a predator,’ the claims obtained by Contra Costa Times reads.

Lawsuit: Kristen Cunnane filed similar claims against the Moraga School District this year and said the ‘lax environment’ of the school permitted the abuse

‘After Witters committed suicide, (the) Moraga School District undertook a campaign to conceal and cover up its knowledge concerning past complaints made against Witters.’

The lawsuit is not the first to be filed against the school accusing them and the teacher of sexual abuse.

Kristen Cunnane, now 30, was the first to file a lawsuit claiming abuse by Witters.

Former swimming coach Cunnane said ‘a lax environment’ supplied by the school permitted the harmful environment.

Ms Cunnane’s claim was denied in August with her lawsuit seeking unspecified damages filed in September.

‘We’re not talking about a tap on the butt or a rub on the shoulder,’ the women’s attorney David Ring told the paper. ‘We’re talking extremely serious sexual abuse.

‘Their reaction… ranged from shock to dismay to anger. They couldn’t believe it. Their mindsets always have been Witters did this to us… and tried to deal with that issue.

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