MORAGA -- Nearly a week after issuing an apology and withdrawing legal document language stating a former student may have shared some responsibility for the sexual abuse she suffered from former teachers, school board trustees made a sweeping public apology to that student and others sexually abused in the 1990s.
Board trustees also said the district will mediate claims against the district filed by those former students.
"No child is to blame for his or her own abuse. Sexual abuse is not the fault of any victim and certainly not the fault of a child victim," school board Vice President Charles MacNulty read from a statement at a meeting Tuesday. "We are truly sorry that our filing obscured this important truth and we are deeply sorry for the pain it caused victims of sexual abuse."
Three former students, including 30-year-old Cal assistant swim coach Kristen Cunnane, have filed claims against the district. Cunnane sued the district and three former administrators and says her abuse by two intermediate school teachers in the 1990s was caused by failures to report suspected abuse to authorities. The other two claims filed by victims known as "Jane Doe" also say mandated reporting failures led to their continued abuse.
MacNulty said the district's insurance company will participate in the mediation. He also offered emotional apologies for a portion of the district's legal defense, which had included the words "carelessness" and
"In our initial response to one lawsuit, we made a terrible mistake by including a defense that was entirely inappropriate," he said.
Earlier, Cunnane's brother-in-law Ryan Cunnane reprimanded district leaders, saying he took offense at Superintendent Bruce Burns' earlier public support of the defense language. And he called on the board to investigate how former teachers Julie Correa -- now serving time for abusing Cunnane -- and Dan Witters were able to "hide in the open."
"I ask you to take this head on and do not run from your responsibility. Embrace this challenge. Launch an investigation. Find out what happened and learn from it," Ryan Cunnane said.
Witters killed himself amid allegations of sexually abusing students.
In May, the school district told parents an internal probe into the 1990s abuse had been completed. Residents have repeatedly called for an independent investigation.
Trustees also voted Tuesday to streamline language in the district's child abuse prevention policy, requiring all members of a mandated reporting team to individually report potential child abuse to authorities.
That decision also came nearly a week after board president Dexter Louie's sudden resignation. Louie had pushed for wording to require all mandated reporters file a report, having had concerns that a section of the California Penal Code on which much of the district policy is based states that a single report may be made by a selected member of a mandated reporting team.
Louie argued such language could create a perceived loophole in that there is no way of knowing whether a designated reporter actually filed a report. He has since contacted state lawmakers, including Sen. Mark DeSaulnier and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, to look at fixing the problem.
"I hope the penal code will be amended to eliminate what I believe is a very serious weakness in the law, allowing one person to report for two or more mandated reporters," Louie wrote in an email Monday. Trustees also discussed filling the vacancy left by Louie, who was re-elected Nov. 6 and resigned one day later. The school board must either order an election or make an appointment within 60 days of the resignation, according to the state's education code.