Dear Athena Project Community,
In late June we let you know that Sonoma Academy had hired the law firm, Debevoise & Plimpton, to investigate inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct toward students by current or former Sonoma Academy personnel. The investigation would also address whether current or former Sonoma Academy employees or trustees had knowledge of any inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct toward Sonoma Academy students.
Today, after a more than five-month-long investigation, Sonoma Academy has publicly released the Debevoise & Plimpton report.
The investigation paints a nuanced and painful portrait of faculty misconduct and administrative negligence at Sonoma Academy. We strongly encourage you to read the report in its entirety. The investigators interviewed 133 people and reviewed 61,000 documents for this report. Here are a few of the report’s key findings:
- Marco groomed, sexually harassed, or was otherwise inappropriate with at least 34 students: “Morrone engaged in inappropriate boundary crossing with at least 34 students between the classes of 2005 and 2021 while he was employed by SA.”
- Marco had sexual interactions with at least one former student: “At least one former student reported that she had sexual interactions with Morrone after graduating from high school.” The investigators also found that “he groomed her as a student for later sexual contact.” And concluded, “Morrone stayed in touch with other former students to see whether or not sexual interactions were possible.”
- Sonoma Academy administrators knew about Marco’s inappropriate behavior: The Investigators found that “Durgin and Dwight knew or should have known that Morrone's inappropriate conduct continued after 2007, but took inadequate steps to monitor and investigate. Those failures led to a culture where students believed Morrone's behavior was sanctioned."
- Sonoma Academy administrators dismissed students’ concerns: “Debevoise concludes that SA administrators showed a pattern of dismissing students’ concerns, at least in some circumstances implicitly blaming them for the uncomfortable interactions they reported, and often accepting Morrone’s version of events without any challenge.”
- Sonoma Academy administrators were advised by counsel to report Morrone’s conduct to the appropriate authorities but failed to do so. “SA relied on the advice of counsel and did not terminate Morrone’s employment. Counsel did, however, recommend the filing of a mandated report under CANRA and SA failed to do so."
- 3 minor students were sexually abused by adult employees at Sonoma Academy: “Investigators learned of 3 instances of past sexual abuse by two separate adults associated with SA.”
We are devastated by the extent of the harm done to Sonoma Academy students over the years. Our deepest empathy goes out to those who were sexually harassed, abused, or otherwise harmed while they were students at Sonoma Academy.
Whether you are directly or indirectly impacted by the contents of the Debevoise & Plimpton report, we hope you’ll make use of the RAINN therapy fund if you find yourself in need of mental health support. We have also put together a guide to finding a therapist as well as a list of strategies for coping with distress.
This report is an important step in the right direction. But it is not in itself sufficient. To make amends to the victims of sexual harassment and abuse, Sonoma Academy must work collaboratively with the Athena Project to ensure that:
- Sonoma Academy has a plan in place for ensuring this never happens again.
- Sonoma Academy has financially compensated everyone who was sexually assaulted or sexually harassed by a faculty member while they were a student at Sonoma Academy or otherwise impacted by Sonoma Academy’s failure to fulfill its statutory duties concerning the sexual abuse of minors.
We look forward to the next phase of our collaborative process with Sonoma Academy. In the meantime, thank you so much for your ongoing support. This has been a long and arduous process. We are still processing the contents of this report. We will communicate more with the Athena Project community in the near future. Our thoughts are with all of you.
Miranda, Morgan, Clio, Savannah, Linnet, Grace, and Emma