CNN has reported a new lawsuit against the University of North Carolina School of the Arts located at 1533 S Main St, Winston-Salem, NC 27127.
On Wednesday, September 29, 2021, a case was filed against the art school, claiming multiple allegations of sexual abuse went ignored over two decades. Former students are accusing one dance instructor and six former administrators of neglecting to properly report or investigate the abuse and harassment. The abuse was said to have occurred between 1970 and 1990. The victims alleged that faculty and the school administrators were aware of the abuse inflicted on the minors but "ignored or condoned" the misconduct.
Attorney commentator Laurence Banville recently had a conversation with Chance Farr from McGowan, Hood & Felder LLC, a sexual assault attorney. They discussed when a school or university can be held liable for sexual abuse on campus. Below is a portion of their discussion.
Laurence: What constitutes sexual abuse and harassment?
Chance: Sexual abuse can include any activity of a sexual nature that is non-consensual. This can also include inappropriately touching or fondling. Engaging in any sexual conduct with a minor or anyone in an impaired state is also considered sexual abuse.
Sexual harassment can include these inappropriate acts but also involve verbal behavior. Comments regarding a victim's sex or gender and the use of derogatory language that may make someone uncomfortable could be considered harassment.
Laurence: How does a victim seek justice for the abuse?
Chance: Victims and their families have two ways to file. They can file a criminal lawsuit against the perpetrator, and this may lead to the arrest and charge of those found guilty. Another avenue for victims that may lead to compensation is filing a civil lawsuit against the abuser or negligent third party.
Laurence: Can a school be held liable in addition to the perpetrator?
Chance: Schools, and universities, have a legal obligation to provide a safe environment free of any misconduct. Unfortunately, this is not always upheld, and many reports of sexual abuse at the hands of teachers and staff have recently surfaced. If the abuse can be linked back to the school's negligence, they may be held liable in a civil lawsuit. If reports of sexual misconduct went ignored or teachers with a history of misconduct continued to teach, the school could be considered negligent. It should be a top priority to keep this abuse away from the students on the campus.
Laurence: How long does a victim have to file a civil claim?
Chance: Typically, victims should file claims within three years of the abuse, but recent laws were passed to extend the statute of limitations. The time begins when the victim reaches the age of 18 and gives the victim up to ten years to file. However, charges involving felony crimes may give victims longer. It is best to speak with an experienced sexual assault attorney as soon as possible to ensure these time limits are not missed.