Thirty-nine former students have filed a lawsuit against the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, alleging they were sexually abused by members of the school's faculty and staff. The suit comes just months after seven former students made similar claims in court.
The complaint paints a picture of systemic sexual abuse at the school over several decades. Students say they were victims of offenses ranging from sexual harassment to rape. In all, 24 former faculty members and administrators are accused of either committing that abuse or failing to report it.
Among the defendants is Stephen Shipps, a former violin professor accused of raping female students. The lawsuit alleges Shipps was allowed to leave the school without facing serious ramifications. He later was accused of sexual misconduct while teaching at the University of Michigan and pleaded guilty to a sex crime two weeks ago.
The lawsuit says students were groomed for abuse by staff members who insinuated that it was necessary in order to build a successful career in the arts.
In a statement, UNCSA officials called the allegations “deeply disturbing” and said the school now has “significant safeguards in place to protect its community against abuse of any kind.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Gloria Allred, who is known for her work on high-profile sexual abuse cases. Her clients include victims of Harvey Weinstein and R. Kelly.