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How we reported on Sonoma Academy

How to reach the reporters

Press Democrat reporters Kaylee Tornay and Martin Espinoza are continuing to cover alumni allegations of sexual harassment by a longtime former Sonoma Academy teacher and claims the school failed to safeguard students.

Here is how to contact them:

Kaylee Tornay: 707-521-5250 or kaylee.tornay@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ka_tornay

Martin Espinoza: 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno

It’s important to be transparent with readers about how The Press Democrat pursues high-profile stories, especially one as notable as the controversy at Sonoma Academy that erupted Wednesday.

The seven Sonoma Academy graduates first alerted The Press Democrat and other media outlets to their experiences involving the school and one of its longtime teachers in a mass email sent May 7.

Press Democrat editor Richard Green responded to the women immediately and requested an initial conversation to learn more. Reporters Kaylee Tornay and Martin Espinoza stepped in a day later to begin reporting in earnest.

The first interviews with the seven women unfolded over the next two weeks. Press Democrat reporters requested corroborating materials from the women, including journal entries and copies of assignments. The women provided those, as well as report cards, transcripts and contacts for family and friends who confirmed various details of the women’s stories. They identified the teacher as Marco Morrone.

Reporting continued for several more weeks, as reporters reached out to therapists, lawyers and other experts in employment law and mandatory reporting to better understand the allegations the women made against Morrone and school administrators.

On Tuesday, June 8, reporters made their first phone call to Morrone. He hung up the phone and did not respond to two voicemails.

On Wednesday morning, the reporters visited his home and delivered a letter detailing the allegations made by alumni in full, with the invitation for him to respond to them.

Six hours after reporters visited Morrone’s home in Petaluma and before they could contact Sonoma Academy officials, the head of school released a lengthy statement to the school community acknowledging Morrone’s firing and the women’s complaints that led up to it.

In the statement, Head of School Tucker Foehl said: “As a matter of practice, we do not normally share details about an employee’s departure ... However, it was appropriate to provide more context at this time on Morrone’s conduct and the school’s response. We are deeply sensitive to the reverberating impact today’s communications will have throughout our community.”

Reporters continued contacting Morrone every day through the rest of the week as additional stories were published. He has yet to comment.

Reporters also reached out to former school employees who, according to the graduates, did not act on multiple reports by students and alumni about Morrone’s behavior.

Janet Durgin, the head of school from 2001 to 2020, released a one paragraph statement Saturday. In part, it read:

“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.”

How to reach the reporters

Press Democrat reporters Kaylee Tornay and Martin Espinoza are continuing to cover alumni allegations of sexual harassment by a longtime former Sonoma Academy teacher and claims the school failed to safeguard students.

Here is how to contact them:

Kaylee Tornay: 707-521-5250 or kaylee.tornay@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ka_tornay

Martin Espinoza: 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno

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