Christian Youth Theater Addresses Sex Assault, Misconduct Allegations

More than a dozen former students have accused teachers on social media of assaulting them while they were students

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Days after a former theater student and former staff member at San Diego's Christian Youth Theater came forward with allegations of misconduct between teachers and young students, dozens of others have made similar claims of sexual abuse, discrimination, racism, and misconduct.

Those reports, reported by NBC 7 Investigates on July 22, have prompted staff at the theater school headquartered in El Cajon to address those allegations.

Janie Russell Cox, president of the Christian Youth Theater (CYT), addressed allegations from dozens of former theater students who claimed they were abused and discriminated against by teachers during their time at the East County after-school program.

 "We are fully committed to the safety of every single child," said Russell Cox during an emotional news conference. "We are grieving for every single individual whom we love and care so deeply for, who are hurting right now. We apologize. I love you."

Russell Cox ensured that the national theater school, the largest after school drama program in the country, will investigate each claim.

More than a dozen former students have accused teachers on social media of assaulting them while they were students, reports NBC 7 Investigates Alexis Rivas.

Just outside from where Russell Cox spoke, former students gathered in protest, chanting, "You will be found."

Not long after the news conference and simultaneous protest, NBC 7 Investigates spoke to a former teacher and parent of a student who brought the allegations to light. 

Melissa Baldwin told NBC 7 that she and her son hoped to give "a voice to the voiceless."

As for the allegations of sexual misconduct, Baldwin says she has been warning administrators and staff since 2017 about the claims.

"I know for a fact they had a teacher who had severe allegations against him, that was fired from his job at Sweetwater, and I have been going to CYT with that information since 2017. On each occasion, I was rebuffed and given excuses."

Baldwin says Russell Cox's claims that she was unaware of the abuse until this week was not accurate. "(The apology) fell short. It was devastating to hear her deny that she had no knowledge of any of this until this week." 

While dozens of students have posted about the allegations online, Russell Cox encouraged former students to come forward on Friday, adding that only three students have come forward to share their stories with school administrators.

Also present at the protest was former student, Courtney Conway. 

Conway tells NBC 7 that she was discriminated against for her sexual orientation.

"For me, it's just very personal," Conway said. "I am showing up today for the 15-year-old me who was terrified to be who she was."

"I am a queer woman and did not feel safe or comfortable coming out or expressing my identity until long after my time at CYT directly because of the homophobic and hateful culture this company perpetuates," Conway added.

Meanwhile, an attorney for some of the alleged victims says her clients are prepared to file a lawsuit to make sure those responsible are held accountable.

Attorney Jessica Pride represents at least two of the alleged victims. Pride said her clients are prepared to sue the school and administrators over the abuse. 

"My clients want Christian Youth Theater to take responsibility," Pride said. "To this day, school administrators and staff have failed to take responsibility for the child abuse that happened under their watch."

NBC 7 Investigates confirmed that the San Diego Police Department's Sex Crimes Unit is investigating the claims made by former students. However, no arrests have been made. 

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