Former head of Sonoma Academy responds to graduates alleging inaction on teacher’s harassment

Janet Durgin said she “quickly addressed” inappropriate behavior by a longtime teacher at the center of a scandal.|

Janet Durgin, former Sonoma Academy head of school, responded Saturday to a group of female graduates who say she failed to protect them from a teacher who sexually harassed them over a span of seven years.

The seven graduates, who attended Sonoma Academy at different points from 2004 through 2014, accuse Marco Morrone, who was fired from the school in October 2020, of repeated inappropriate touching in the classroom, soliciting intimate confessions through free-form journal assignments and suggesting private meetings outside of class time.

Several alumni said they reported their experiences to Durgin, one on multiple occasions. Durgin did not, to the women’s knowledge, launch any outside review or pass their concerns to law enforcement or child protective authorities to trigger an independent investigation.

Morrone, 50, has not been accused of sexual assault, and the women say they have not made reports to law enforcement, nor has the school. No civil lawsuits have been filed against him or Sonoma Academy related to his behavior.

Durgin, first reached by The Press Democrat at her Santa Rosa home Friday, said in a statement Saturday that she had handled a 2007 complaint and considered the issue resolved. She did not name Morrone.

“We all want our students to be and feel safe at school. In 2007, when a serious issue concerning a student was brought to my attention, I quickly addressed it and I believed it was taken care of with discipline and counseling for the employee. Subsequent to my retirement, a group of alumnae approached the school directly with names and additional information, at which point the school took appropriate action and the employee was terminated. A number of things have been said in the press about my role and my knowledge of the situation that are inaccurate and incomplete. During my 20 years at Sonoma Academy as an administrator and educator, I always acted in the best interests of the entire school community. I am proud of these young women who are now demanding that their painful stories be heard.”

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