Sonoma Academy graduates detail sweeping allegations of improper behavior by former teacher | #teacher | #children | #kids

Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, he promptly hung up on The Press Democrat and has not answered multiple follow-up calls, including a detailed voice message about the allegations.

The women were part of a small clique of students known across multiple classes over many years by the same name: “Marco’s Girls.” They contend his relationships with them were inappropriate.

Several alumni had raised their concerns about Morrone with school leaders years before, and at least one did so as far back as 2007 when she was a student. Their experience affected relationships with other teachers and mentors, and its imprint left them dealing with emotional trauma that lasted years after their graduation.

McAleavy, who made the earliest report known to The Press Democrat in 2007, during her senior year, said the school’s statement failed to tell the whole story.

The statement, she said, disclosed much of what she and her fellow alumnae have told school officials in statements and complaints. But it did not detail the months of meetings and mediation that the women have engaged in with the school — nor the years of waiting for responses to reports made over 14 years.

“They have a lot to account for, a lot to make up for,” she said. “And they’re going to get the opportunity to do that in the immediate future. I’m looking forward to seeing how they handle that process.”

“What I will say is I’m extraordinarily relieved that Sonoma Academy has shared more than they ever have before with the community about what’s been going on and that the extended Sonoma Academy community has an opportunity to deal with what has been an incredibly painful open secret in our community for over a decade,” she added.

Foehl could not be reached Wednesday evening to answer questions about his statement and detailed allegations shared by the women with The Press Democrat.

The women approached the newspaper in early May with their stories after pressing for eight months for school leadership to make a full, public accounting of student and alumni complaints about Morrone.

Until Wednesday, no word about the investigation’s findings, its scope, or its bearing on Morrone’s future employment had reached the school community or the wider public — a shortcoming, the women said, that has prompted them to come forward. They are concerned his employment at another school could put other girls at risk, and that school administrators at the time have yet to be held accountable.

“For me, one thing that’s really important about transparency is just that Marco can’t pull this at another school,” said Grace Erny, another 2008 alumna. “If, say, that he did harm other kids, I would feel this incredible burden. Like I knew something and I didn’t stop whatever was going to happen.”

In a series of lengthy interviews with The Press Democrat over several weeks, the seven women shared stories that were detailed, corroborated in some cases by friends and family, or recorded in journals they kept at the time.

The allegations include claims that Morrone:

* Used physical touch, including lingering contact and brushing up against girls in a way that left them feeling uncomfortable and vulnerable — though none accuse him of touching their genitals or other private areas.

* Conducted private martial arts classes, including one-on-one sessions with one girl, which included him restraining students in uncomfortable, compromising positions.

* Encouraged female students to share intimate secrets during free-form writing assignments, often rewarding their revelations with what the women felt were flirtatious comments.

* Routinely exposed students inside and outside of class curriculum to sexually explicit literature, passing out copies of Vladimir Nabokov’s acclaimed, salacious novel “Lolita” and asking students to read aloud in class from a gratuitous masturbation scene in Philip Roth’s novel “Portnoy’s Complaint.”

The allegations against Morrone raise significant questions about a man who by many accounts was a highly respected and beloved educator at Sonoma Academy. He joined the Santa Rosa school only a year after its 2001 founding and taught one of its core classes, the double Advanced Placement English and Humanities class critical for the college hopes of many of the school’s students.

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