Contra Costa Times reporters Malaika Fraley and Matthias Gafni are winners of the Society of Professional Journalists of Northern California's 28th annual James Madison Award for their stories about the reporting and handling of sex abuse allegations in Moraga in the 1990s, and the changes to school district policy those stories helped bring about.
Gafni and Fraley first collaborated on the May 2012 news feature "Silence Over, Life Reclaimed," about Kristen Cunnane, a former student at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School in Moraga who told her story of her four years of abuse in the 1990s at the hands of Julie Correa, her P.E. teacher there. Correa was sentenced in December 2011 to eight years in prison for sexually abusing Cunnane.
School district documents obtained by Gafni and Fraley for that story led to additional stories revealing how Correa and other school administrators failed to properly report to police other students' claims of abuse by a teacher. Cunnane and three other former students have since sued the school district, claiming its leaders created an environment that ultimately led to their abuse.
Driven in part by Fraley's and Gafni's reporting, the Moraga school board created a student safety committee last fall to address the district's "mandated reporting" policy requiring teachers, administrators and other employees to report to law enforcement authorities any report of abuse by other district employees. And more recently, the school districts in Orinda, Lafayette and Moraga have agreed to hire a child safety awareness coordinator to develop and teach a safety program to all first-, third-, fifth- and seventh-graders in those cities' school districts.
Gafni is a general assignment investigative reporter and editor for the Times, while Fraley is the Times' Contra Costa courts reporter.
Fraley, Gafni and other winners of the SPJ awards recognizing those who shine a light on government to bring about positive change will be honored at the organization's 28th annual James Madison Awards banquet on March 12 in San Francisco.