Seven former University of North Carolina students have filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that the school neglected, and even condoned, a culture of sexual violence at the university’s School of the Arts (UNCSA) during the 1970s and 80s.
The accusations refer to a period when the plaintiffs were students at the specialized school. Over two decades, the school chose to “widely ignore” two dance teachers known for harassing several students, including minors.
The plaintiffs alleged that their years at UNCSA were marked by “continual sexual intimidation, abuse, exploitation and harassment,” resulting in severe emotional distress. Six former administrators and one dance instructor have been named so far. The litigation also alleges battery by the instructors.
The lawsuit states that defendants, including the school, six former administrators, and one dance instructor, “knew or should have known of the dangerous culture that permeated the institution and that permitted and condoned the sexual abuse and exploitation of students attending the school.”
‘I Began to Experience Anxious Dread as an Everyday Normal’
In a press conference hosted by attorney Gloria Allred on Monday, the plaintiffs said UNCSA instructors Richard Kuch and Richard Gain had a reputation for their predatory behavior — so much so that parents and dance academies were scared of sending children to the program.
Kuch is since deceased, but Gain is one of the six defendants named in the lawsuit.
The accusations against the instructors range from asking minors to have penetrative sex to groping students under the guise of technique correction. Years of this toxic culture led many to accept such behavior as normal, even believing that these teachers were helping them to become better dancers.
“As an underaged adolescent, I was subjected to sexual abuse that was normalized by my instructors as preparation for the future professional career I wanted so much,” one accuser said during the conference. “In weekly classes, my body was often violated by teachers who had well-known reputations for being sexual predators. I began to experience anxious dread as an everyday normal.”
Allred has urged witnesses to come forward to corroborate the victims’ claims. The class-action status, if granted, would offer claimants more time to file the case.
The school reported that it had received some of the allegations in 1995 but, owing to lack of evidence following an independent investigation, chose not to pursue it further. The accusations led to policy changes; however, there are few records to shed more light on the matter, the school said.
“The allegations in the complaint are deeply disturbing and run counter to UNCSA’s institutional values. While they have been raised in the context of a lawsuit against UNCSA, it is our intent to respond to this litigation in a manner consistent with our institutional values — to listen to the accounts with openness; to appreciate the courage it took for our former students and alumni to share their experiences, especially given the long-term impacts of trauma many have described,” UNC said in a statement.