Cunnane Story Airs Tuesday on Oprah Winfrey Network

Former Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School student has sued district over sexual abuse from the 1990s.

The story of Kristen Cunnane, who was sexually abused as a child, will be aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network Tuesday.

Cunnane, now a Cal Berkeley swim coach who lives in Walnut Creek, has sued the Moraga School District over the abuse involving a teacher at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School in the 1990s. She will be interviewed on "Our America with Lisa Ling" at 10 p.m. Pacific Time Tuesday on OWN, according to the Contra Costa Times.

OWN can be found on Comcast channel 220; DIRECTV 279; DISH Network 189 or 885; and AT&T U-verse 170 or 1170.

lovelafayette February 25, 2013 at 09:05 PM
Thanks to Kristen and her family for raising the consciousness of America about sexual abuse in schools; for telling us who you are, for sharing the darkest period of your life so that others can benefit. This shouts out to other victims that they too have a choice: They do not have to accept misogynistic advice to remain anonymous and carry the heavy burden of that secret, they do not have to accept the judgement that there is blame or shame in being raped. A crime was committed, there was a victim and a perpetrator, just as in any other violent crime. The identity of a murder victim who was raped is never a secret. What does a living rape victim need protection from?? Public opinion! Society needs to change and help living victims to figuratively "take back the night", lift the cover of darkness and anonymity that really serves to shield the criminal. Other victims DID come forward because of Kristen, I hope they consider following her brave example.
Regular Guy February 25, 2013 at 10:23 PM
Standing up is brave. It takes a special, strong person. Suing the school district and, in effect, its taxpayers is of debatable merit. It risks making victims of all the children in the school district even if management did act incorrectly. Sometimes justice has nothing to do with money. Just once I'd like to see someone sue for an apology and appropriate policy changes rather than for money. The legal fees for such a suit would be low enough that donations could cover them.
Nancy Lee February 25, 2013 at 10:34 PM
Apparently one local school district just settled to the tune of $725,000. http://news24-680.com/lamorinda-news/schools/lafayette-schools-settle-merrick-litigation-still-an-open-line-for-student-adult-contact
lovelafayette February 25, 2013 at 11:34 PM
JD's 24/680 Merrick story IS news, great reporting. Patch stopped reporting on Merrick long ago, cowardly and unprofessional response to being wrongly accused of identifying the victim in a JD story. The first "news" story on Patch this morning was what amounted to an advertisement about a new store opening! Pitiful.
Regular Guy February 25, 2013 at 11:53 PM
"under the terms of the agreement announced Monday, the district's insurance pool will cover the $725,000 settlement payment with none of the money coming from the district's general fund" If that kind of settlement is the objective, then the lawsuit is much easier to understand. It's too bad that our legal system requires aggravating posturing by both sides rather than openly stated objectives and admissions.
Chris Nicholson February 25, 2013 at 11:56 PM
As an aside, Lisa Ling's show is generally pretty good. She's explores lots of gritty / "not in the headlines" / "touches raw nerve" kinds of stories. I am looking forward to the episode (which, BTW, I think is broader than just Cunnane's case).
Edith February 26, 2013 at 04:16 AM
What is the status of the book "Undoing Jane Doe" Kristin Cunnane is writing?
Ryan February 26, 2013 at 05:49 PM
"the district's insurance pool will cover the $725,000 settlement payment with none of the money coming from the district's general fund" The insurance pool mentioned also includes the MSD and 100's of other schools in the state that share the same insurance company. I might be wrong but releasing the financial amount is not necessary or legally instructed so maybe this is done to show the MSD victims the ceiling of what they can hope to settle for.
Chris Nicholson February 26, 2013 at 06:51 PM
@Ryan: I had the same interpretation-- it was a strategic disclosure. If no money came from the District, I can't imagine that disclosure is required and, in general, the insurance company would insist that the amount be confidential. Either suing someone for millions is appropriate or it isn't. From a logical and moral perspective, having deep pockets and/or an insurance policy should not impact culpability or increase compensatory damages-- unless we prefer a regime where the legitimately aggrieved can collect from any deep pocket they locate.
Chris Nicholson February 26, 2013 at 06:52 PM
I can't imagine she would publish it until her civil case is resolved.
Julia Pardini February 26, 2013 at 06:58 PM
Hey people...don't let anyone BS you...Money is the motivating factor...NOT PEACE OF MIND. I agree with Regular Guy....sue for a public apologize and policy changes. Now a book and Oprah...please buy my book I need the extra cash...that's what it's all about don't let anyone kid you.
lovelafayette February 26, 2013 at 07:00 PM
There has been no justice in this case. The MSD kneejerk was not an apology or policy change. The teachers and superintendent who failed to report are still employed. The involved principal retired with full benefits after the abuse came to light. The MSD attorney publicly apportioned blame, blaming the child! If I was a parent in MSD today I could not allow my child to be exposed to the teachers who appeared in court to support Correa. My kids would be in private school, and I would be sueing the district for tuition as they have failed to provide a safe learning environment. Read the stories of other MSD victims in the Patch article "New suit alleges Moraga schools hide science teachers abuse" and see if you still feel that apologies all round would suffice to prevent future abuse. Sorry no link as Patch rejected their own link I posted!
Ryan February 26, 2013 at 07:09 PM
Wow Julia I'm impressed with your take on this. I won't let you BS me that you are absolutely not a rational/caring person so I will just enjoy the unintentional comedy and intentional trolling of your post.
Ryan February 26, 2013 at 07:13 PM
Chris, I'm curious what your take on this Lafayette case is. The teacher admitted to the crime, the student sued the district, but you did not direct much venom at this accusers efforts to sue the district. Possibly because she is still so young? What is the difference for you between this case and the one in Moraga? Jane Doe vs named victim?
Chris Nicholson February 26, 2013 at 07:36 PM
@Ryan: Facts are fuzzy in my head, but, for Merrick, the victim/plaintiff sued promptly after the crime. I don't know the facts about the "failure to supervise" and/or "they were on notice" kind of related claims. So hard to compare. For Moraga the "Jane Does," they waited 15+ years to sue, but at least were claiming abuse by the guy (Witters?) who had the prior complaints. They at least map into the statute of limitations carve out. The conduct mentioned in the filings linked here didn't feel like like $15M of harm (kiss on cheek / hand on breast). Creepy and criminal but not $15M. But opinions may vary. For Cunnane, in particular, it feels like her civil claims are a bridge too far. The district was NOT on notice that her abuser was a threat. Plus she waited too long to bring her claims (I am not a fan of "recovered/suppressed memory" theories). Plus, if I'm honest, the duration and nature of her interactions with Correa feel like something different than the kind of child rape / molestation (at least toward the end of the time period in question) that the DIstrict should answer for vicariuously. Did Correa commit a crime and inflict pain/injury? For sure. Should she personally compensate Cunnane for her damages? For sure. But I think the (proximate) causal chain does not connect the District's inaction w/r/t Witters to Cunnane's harm. And I don't think her claim fits under the SoL extension. Sorry if you perceive venom in the above.
lovelafayette February 26, 2013 at 07:54 PM
@ Chris. You missed this in the latest Patch article about the Jane Doe case. "Between 1994 and 2000, Cunnane was molested by Witters and then raped, stalked and abused by her P.E. teacher Julie Correa." Cunnane reported the Witter molestation to CORREA and that is what started chapter 2 of her nightmare.
Regular Guy February 26, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Being abused by the person you turned to for help. That's just plain evil.
Chris Nicholson February 26, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Evil for sure, and the evil doer is in jail (and the other one killed himself). @lovelafayette: The complaint just says "sexually harassed and assaulted" (four words) to describe Witters behavior toward Cunnane. In describing Witters' conduct toward other girls, it uses much more graphic, specific and descriptive terms (consistent with clear cut molestation/rape). The complaint goes on for pages to describe in detail Correa's conduct toward Cunnane. The clear implication (and my interpretation) is that whatever Witters did to Cunnane, it wasn't as serious, injurious or sustained as what Cunnane did. Critically, per me, the District is much much more "on the hook" for what Witters did as compared to what Correa did. @Ryan: After going back through the Cunnane complaint, it does allege pretty terrible stuff that Witters did to other girls (including vaginal penetration). If the Jane Does suing for $15M each are those victims, then I wonder why, in their complaint, they only alleged less serious/injurious (in my view) conduct. Lots of evil here. I just think the District's culpability/liability needs to be separated from the emotional response to such evil.
Trixie February 27, 2013 at 04:18 AM
Where were her parents!?!
KFrances February 27, 2013 at 07:43 AM
Blame the perpetrators - don't blame the victims.
MYRNA lARSEN February 27, 2013 at 06:45 PM
I am Kristen's mother and I choose to answer your question because it may help others. The answer is that we were right there and she did this under our nose. That is how good these people are at doing this sort of thing. She started coming to our house when Kristen was about 12 and showed an interest in our whole family. We were all duped by this "amazing teacher." Even though I thought it was strange, her interest in us, I thought that maybe she was lonely for her extended family. We welcomed her into our home. She was a well respected teacher in our community, a newly wed, and a woman, and when she first came into our lives we had no reason to expect the evil that she would do to Kristen and our family. Parents, beware of ANYONE who shows interest in your children... ANYONE!!
lovelafayette February 27, 2013 at 07:37 PM
@ Trixie. Are you also faulting the thousands of parents whose children were abused by Catholic priests and Boy Scout leaders? Your question, really an attack, reveals your ignorance of the psychopathic/sociopathic predator personality disorder, read this for a non-clinical description. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/The-Pros-to-Being-a-Psychopath-176019901.html. Watch a rerun of last night's OWN Lisa Ling program. She showcased 2 children (a white woman abused by male AND female teachers, and a black man abused by a male Boston Rede Sox employee). Both families were dazzled by psychopathic predators, neither set of parents aware of the abuse until their children confessed as adults. Kristen and her parents shared their tragic story including how Kristen is emotionally unable to enter her childhood home where she was abused, ever. She fared much better however, than her male counterpart on the show. He and many other boys were abused by the Boston Red Sox employee and organization, who kicked him to the side of the road where he fell victim to drugs and crime. Kristen is a hero, her parents will always feel guilty. The additional criminal in this case is the Moraga School District who blamed the victim and just like the Boston Red Sox organization covered up the crimes of their employees.
MollyB March 01, 2013 at 12:42 AM
@Julia. Would you trade places? If you were/are 30 and could turn back the clock to when you were 12, would you chose to be sexually abused for the next three years by adults you respected to see one commit suicide and the other put in prison just because you knew that when you got to 30 you could be on television, write a book, maybe get several million dollars in a law suit and have more than your allotted 15 minutes of fame? If the answer is no then she is not doing it for the money.
Julia Pardini March 01, 2013 at 06:04 PM
Hey Molly...the answer is YES...you darn right I would...we all have been touched one time or another...it washes off...now 30 years old and some what rich...oh yes. Get over it Molly...She was lucky...You obviously know nothing about what's going on in other parts of this wonderful caring Country..like the Ozarks. Believe me she was lucky. And Ryan...you darn rights I am a caring person...much more than you will ever know...but I am also a realist.
Chris Nicholson March 01, 2013 at 06:27 PM
@LoveLaf: Regarding Witter's abuse of Cunnane, I finally watched the episode (pretty powerful I thought). In Cunnane's description of what Witters did to her, she only says that she was in his classroom with him alone and that her mind is completely blank as to what happened (her memories of Correa are vivid). It seems no one will ever know what exactly Witters did to Cunnane.
Ryan March 01, 2013 at 06:35 PM
@Chris: I think there are a few people that might know about what Witters did to Kristen but she probably didn't need to go into specific details on the tv show since there is a lawsuit going on. But since you are able to monetize abuse so easily you probably need your morbid curiosity appeased so you can wrap your brain about how much cash she should earn for the Witters piece. I'm pretty much ok with labeling it "rape" and "abuse" of a child instead of needing gory details like you.
Chris Nicholson March 01, 2013 at 06:46 PM
@Ryan: She didn't say "I'd rather not discuss that," she said (more or less) "I have no recollection of what happened." In any case, my interest is not prurient-- it is from a legal/moral/policy perspective. To be clear, I have no doubt that Kristen has suffered horribly from the criminal acts of Correa and that she is morally entitled monetary damages from those responsible/liable. I'm just not sure if the District is liable for the full measure of her harm (either morally or legally).


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