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Sonoma Academy graduates who raised harassment claims launch website for victims to share stories, find support

The seven Sonoma Academy graduates who have accused a former humanities teacher of sexual harassment and forming inappropriate relationships with female students have launched a website for potential victims to share their stories, and to provide information on mental health support.

Their initiative, called The Athena Project, went live Thursday afternoon, a day after Sonoma Academy Head of School Tucker Foehl released a lengthy statement confirming many of the women’s allegations against Marco Morrone, who taught at Sonoma Academy for 18 years.

Foehl’s statement also acknowledged that complaints from three of the women triggered an investigation in 2020 that led to Morrone’s dismissal in October.

The women accuse Morrone, 50, of improper touching, soliciting one-on-one meetings in and out of the classroom, and delving into their private lives by routinely asking about their romantic relationships and intimate feelings.

Morrone has not responded to multiple requests by The Press Democrat for comment via phone, email and letters since Tuesday.

The women said the school’s investigation into alumni experiences in 2020 did not include input from many affected female students with whom they have been in touch in the past six months or so.

“We made the website initially because we felt like there was a real need to talk to people about what had happened and to make some space for people to think about their own experiences,” said Emma McAleavy, a 2008 alumna, who first reported her concerns about Morrone’s behavior to school leaders in 2007. That’s the same year Morrone was disciplined and received counseling for his behavior, according to Foehl’s statement.

That message to alumni, parents and staff Wednesday included a link to a platform for those in the school community wishing to make anonymous reports concerning “any type of misconduct occurring at Sonoma Academy.” Users must create an account with an email or phone number before they are able to make a report.

The Athena Project website also invited others to come forward and provided a way to do so.

“We are open to hearing from all Sonoma Academy community members regarding any troubling interactions they had with Marco or with the Sonoma Academy administration,” the site reads. “We respect and affirm any choices you wish to make regarding your personal story.”

The women also included information on how to find therapists and manage stressful emotions that come up when reliving traumatic experiences.

“Crucially, (Sonoma Academy’s) public statement didn’t include any resources or offers of support to people who might be suffering right now,” McAleavy said in an interview Thursday. “Our website does include those kinds of resources.”

The group’s name is inspired by the Greek goddess of battle strategy, wisdom and justice. McAleavy said it grew within the group after she used it to avoid leaning on another former label the women once had in common as students: Marco’s Girls.

McAleavy acted as chief architect of the site, but all of the women contributed to crafting the messages and adding resources.

“We thought deeply about what we wanted to say and how we could communicate in a way that was respectful of and supportive to other women who may have been affected,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kaylee Tornay at 707-521-5250 or kaylee.tornay@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ka_tornay. Reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno.

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