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A group of former Ringling College of Art and Design alumni have filed a lawsuit against the school.

What has happened? Eight alumni of Florida’s Ringling College – an art school whose cg animation program serves as a gateway to major studios – have sued the organization for constructive fraud, negligent supervision and retention, breach of implied contract, and breach of fiduciary duty.

Who is suing? The plaintiffs are Megan Rose Ruiz, Lyra Wilson, Lauren Wilson, Caitlin Henning, Roxee Zinsser, Dylan Bonner, Nicholas Berger, and Bryan Paul Patterson. The group is represented by Starlett M. Massey of Massey Law Group, P.A.

Why are they suing? The plaintiffs are accusing Ringling College of neglecting to fulfill its duty to provide a safe campus environment for its students. The group alleges that the school mishandled student-on-student reports of sexual assault, sexual harassment, threats of violence, and stalking. They also assert that the college failed to fulfill its duty to protect students and student employees from discrimination. More specifically, the group alleges that dozens of students were discriminated against by former associate dean of students in resident life, Christopher Shaffer, based on gender, race, disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ status.

Three of the eight plaintiffs allege that after being sexually assaulted on campus, school officials mishandled the reporting of those incidents and attempted to cover up the complaints. The trio claim that their experiences were not unique, but representative of a pattern of silencing students and covering up reports of student-on-student misconduct in violation of Florida and federal anti-discrimination laws since 2008.

Who is Christopher Shaffer? Shaffer is a now-former dean of students who is also suing the school for defamation. Further, for nearly two years, Shaffer has been suing Ringling alumnus Megan Ruiz for defamation after she publicly spoke out about her experiences with Shaffer and began collecting reports, as many as 60, from other alumni making similar claims of abusive behavior.

What the plaintiffs are saying: When the group of eight filed their suit against the school, Ruiz stated, “For much of the past two years, I didn’t have the mental health needed to pursue this lawsuit. Now that others have come forward, I am reminded that my only goal since all of this started was to advocate for the well-being of the Ringling community.  The college was negligent, and I’m moving forward for the sake of the mental health and safety of others, as scary as this is.”

What Ringling is saying: “The safety of our students and the entire Ringling College community is and always has been a top priority,” the school told Cartoon Brew. “As a practice, however, the College does not comment on pending legal matters.”

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