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The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a sexual harassment suit brought by a former player against UNC and its 18-time NCAA champion women’s soccer coach, Anson Dorrance ’74.
In denying a petition by the state attorney general’s office for the court to open the nine-year-old case, the Supreme Court let stand the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from this year that, in Judge M. Blane Michael’s majority opinion, Dorrance’s conduct “went far beyond simple teasing and qualified as sexual harassment.”
It opens the possibility that Melissa Jennings ’00 could get a court trial. In 1998, players Melissa Jennings and Debbie Keller ’98 sued Dorrance and the University for sexual harassment. Their accusations included comments that Dorrance made to the two women and other teammates that were sexual in nature.
Keller settled her case in 2004 for $70,000 and an agreement that the coach would undergo sensitivity training.
Throughout the case’s proceedings, Dorrance’s attorneys have held that the coach’s comments were only jokes and constituted normal “banter” with his players.
The attorney general’s petition argued that the Supreme Court should define measurements for when sexual harassment endangers a student’s right and access to education.
The University issued a statement after the Supreme Court ruling that acknowledged that the next step is to proceed to trial. “The university continues to dispute the plaintiff’s version of the facts in this case,” the statement read.