Dear Athena Project Community,
In the wake of the release of the Debevoise & Plimpton report, we have been deeply pained to see alumni, students, and their families grappling with feelings of confusion, betrayal, anger, and grief. However, we have also witnessed hope, strength, and collective resilience. We hope that the report can provide a strong starting point from which to move towards accountability, justice for survivors, and a safer environment at Sonoma Academy.
We want to thank you for the support you have provided throughout the ongoing Restorative Justice process and to provide an update on our progress.
PROGRESS MADE THROUGH THE RESTORATIVE JUSTICE PROCESS
We suggested and embarked on a Restorative Justice process in an effort to persuade SA to: (1) make public the reason that Morrone was fired, (2) launch a comprehensive independent investigation into misconduct at SA, (3) provide much-needed support to victims/survivors, (4) institute changes in its policies and practice to help prevent sexual misconduct from re-occuring, and (5) to compensate victims/survivors for the injuries they suffered. In pursuing these goals, we seek to rectify harm that has occurred and to avoid the necessity for victims/survivors to file one or more lawsuits. SA agreed to take part in a Restorative Justice process. Although the process has been exhausting and frustrating, SA has demonstrated through the steps they have taken so far that the institution's leaders are serious about addressing the harm caused by faculty and staff misconduct and working to prevent future misconduct.
Through the Restorative Justice Process, we have accomplished three of our five goals.
First, although we were not able to convince SA to go public concerning the reasons for Morrone’s firing, we did so ourselves with notice to SA. By being transparent in the Restorative Justice process about our intention to go public, we avoided a breach of trust. A recent Press Democrat article reports that Morrone taught at Casa Grande High School after being fired by SA and was forced to quit once the Press Democrat reported that he had been fired for sexual misconduct. This underscores why we felt that Morrone’s name should be made public.
Second, with our endorsement, SA hired the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton to conduct an independent investigation into inappropriate behavior and sexual misconduct by SA faculty and employees. Debevoise & Plimpton conducted a thorough investigation and have released their report, which includes a number of recommendations.
Third, SA established a mental health care fund, administered by RAINN, now available to any alum who experienced direct or indirect harm as a result of faculty or staff misconduct. We had advocated for such a fund since October 2020.
These were critical steps towards accountability and healing, but our work is not yet over.
WHAT’S LEFT TO BE DONE?
SA has apparently undertaken a number of changes in their policies and practices. Debevoise & Plimpton have recommended that SA take additional steps to prevent child abuse from occurring at SA in the future. It is important that all changes be vetted to ensure they will accomplish their intended goal. It is also critical that a system be established to verify that the changes and recommendations are actually implemented and work as they are intended to.
In addition, SA needs to establish a claims process that will allow victims/survivors to submit claims for compensation from SA’s insurance company for the harm they have suffered and the costs they have incurred. This process would allow victims/survivors to avoid the expense and re-traumatization inherent in filing and litigating a lawsuit. Such a claims process would need to be approved by SA's insurance carriers. Individuals who chose to submit a claim through such a process would not be required to waive their right to pursue legal action if they are unable to reach satisfactory resolution of their claims. We believe that, besides being the right thing to do, such a process could set a new precedent for how institutions like SA take responsibility for the wrongs of the past and would send a strong signal that SA is committed to working for a better future.
THE JANE DOE LAWSUIT
As you may be aware, an SA alumna has filed suit against SA. We wholeheartedly support all victims/survivors as they work towards justice and healing, and we respect the decision of those who have chosen to engage in litigation. However, we want to be clear that the members of the Athena Project are not involved with this lawsuit. Instead, we intend to see if we can convince SA and their insurance carriers to agree to a claims process that would allow victims/survivors to avoid needing to file a lawsuit.
THE “LISTENING SESSIONS”
SA recently announced to their alumni mailing list that they will be holding a “Listening Session” on Tuesday, December 21 for alumni to discuss questions and concerns. We encourage those of you in Sonoma County who can attend to do so and to make your voices heard. We are also encouraging SA to make these sessions available by Zoom.
The Athena Project will be holding a remote support meeting for alumni after the holidays. This meeting will be a space for alumni to express their feelings, ask questions, and come together during this challenging time. We invite you to join us, particularly if you do not feel comfortable attending an in-person event hosted by SA. We’d love to see you and will share more details shortly.
Thank you for your patience with us in sharing this information. We hope to be able to provide further updates as we continue to make progress. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns. You can also contact our attorney, Larry King, at email@example.com. Your support means the world to us. We would not be where we are today without all of you, and we are endlessly thankful.
Morgan, Emma, Clio, Linnet, Grace, Miranda, and Savannah