Former students sue CMSD, accuse school district of failing to investigate sex abuse claims

“This was a systemic failure from the top down,” says Attorney Ryan Fisher, who is representing the plaintiffs.
Updated: Jul. 31, 2020 at 4:01 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Five former Cleveland School of the Arts students are suing the Cleveland Metropolitan School District over claims that the district failed to investigate the students’ allegations that they had been sexually abused by a dance teacher.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland on Friday, comes after a 19 News investigation revealed decades of sexual assault allegations against Terence Greene, who taught dance at CSA.

According to the suit, CMSD, the Board of Education and former CSA administrators were “deliberately indifferent” to the fact that Greene “sexually assaulted and abused dozens of minor students throughout his approximately 15-year career with CSA.”

Greene, 54, is also named as defendant.

19 Investigates was first to report that Greene was charged with sexual battery last Thursday after “multiple victims,” including former students, reported allegations to police.

A warrant for Greene’s arrest was issued on July 23. He has not been taken into custody.

“This was a systemic failure from the top down,” says Attorney Ryan Fisher, who is representing the plaintiffs.

Fisher says the school district violated Title IX by allowing the Greene to continue working in schools for years despite multiple allegations of sexual abuse.

Title IX is a federal civil rights law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance.

“You are entitled as a student not to go to school in a hostile environment,” said Fisher. “You are entitled not to be abused by your teachers. Our lawsuit alleges that Cleveland Schools failed these kids in that respect.”

According to the lawsuit, the former students, identified only as John Does 1 through 5, were allegedly abused in the CSA building, including in a boy’s dressing room, inside Greene’s vehicle while it was parked at CAS, at Greene’s homes in Euclid, Garfield Heights and Cleveland, and in hotel rooms during school-related activities.

CMSD Complaint by Misty on Scribd

“Greene ‘groomed’ his sexual victims by manipulating them and building a relationship of trust with them,” the suit states. “His power and reputation in the local and national dance community and at CSA was used to manipulate his victims into engaging in various and repeated sex acts.”

“They were afraid,” Fisher said of his clients, who are now in their 20s. “He was their teacher. He held the key for their dance future.”

A still image of dance instructor Terence Greene from a 2019 feature story on CBS This Morning.
A still image of dance instructor Terence Greene from a 2019 feature story on CBS This Morning.(CBS NEWS)

“It should have stopped with me,” said Nate, who asked that we do not use his last name. “It’s very disheartening because, like, we didn’t get him the first time.”

Nate, who also attended CSA, went to police in 2003 saying he was just 14-years-old when Greene began sexually abusing him.

Greene was arrested and charged with four felony counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

In 2004, a judge acquitted Greene and he went back to teach dance at CSA.

“Simply because Mr. Greene was acquitted in the Court of Common Pleas, does not aggregate the city of Cleveland School District’s responsibility to do their own investigation,” said Fisher.

If there was any sort of investigation done in 2004, it was never documented.

In the file on Greene that 19 News obtained from CMSD, there are no records of a school district investigation until 10 years later when another student came forward with more allegations against Greene.

The district says it reported allegations made in 2014 to Cleveland Police.

“This went on unabated from the time Mr. Greene went back to the school in 2004 until he left the school in 2014,” Fisher said.

In 2015, Greene was hired to teach dance to “pre-college” kids at Cuyahoga Community College.

He abruptly left in January 2020 after a 17-year-old high school senior reported that he had been sexually assault by Greene after a dance practice in October 2019.

Records show the college allowed Greene to resign in lieu of termination.

19 News has made repeated attempts to reach Greene for comment without success.

A representative for CMSD says the school district does not comment on pending litigation.

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