The artistic director of Boston Children's Theatre resigned last week, two days before allegations of sexual misconduct with former students were anonymously reported to the theatre’s board of directors, according to a statement from the theatre’s interim president.

Burgess Clark resigned last Tuesday from his role at the theatre nonprofit following a six-week medical leave, according to BCT Interim President Jim Solomon. Solomon said that on Thursday, the theatre received an anonymous email complaint detailing alleged abuse by Clark.

A spokesperson from the Essex County District Attorney's office confirmed to WGBH News that Beverly Police reached out to them about the allegations, which are currently under investigation. Solomon said the theatre is cooperating with authorities on the investigation.

“We are deeply troubled by what has been alleged,” Solomon said in the statement. “We will continue to make the safety and security of the students in BCT programs our first priority.”

Clark did not respond to requests for comment.

According to a report from The Boston Globe, the anonymous email describes 17 former students' accusations of sexual misconduct against Clark. They allege he inappropriately touched or kissed them during private lessons at one of his homes, and that the bulk of the alleged misconduct occurred when students were under 18 or younger.

Stephanie Charlton, a former instructor at Boston Children's Theatre who last worked there in 2017, worked with Clark during summer camp programs and a handful of productions between 2015 and 2017. Charlton said Clark worked with hundreds of students ages 14 to 18 in a variety of environments, including summer camp programs, intimate classes, and private lessons in his home.

“It makes me really sick, and it breaks my heart,” Charlton said. “If any of this was happening when I was there, even if I didn't know, I feel like I almost failed the kids.”

“Something should have been done,” she continued.

Charlton said that Clark, who began working at the historic theatre nonprofit in 2008, was a trusted, respected figure in the theatre community.

“You do have to have a level of intimacy and trust,” she said. “But I never would have fathomed that he would abuse that trust.”

Wendy Murphy, an attorney who advocates for children who have experienced sexual violence, said that if the allegations prove to be true, that means the theatre company failed to be vigilant in an environment where a predator could take advantage of students.

“That's textbook behavior from predatory sex offenders. It really is as simple as mixing together an arguably innocent situation with clearly inappropriate behavior so that you can at least make a plausible argument if you get caught, that there was a misunderstanding,” Murphy said. “That's what the most dangerous offenders do.”

In 2017, Clark briefly stepped down at the theatre after his controversial choice to incorporate a scene with a nude adult actor into a production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." Clark directed a 21-year-old actor to remove his towel on stage during the performance, a decision that was met with protest from some board members. Clark threatened to quit over what he called “censorship” before eventually returning to his position, but several board members resigned in the process.

Charlton said she remembers disagreeing with Clark’s choice at the time, but not saying anything. “I didn't feel like even if I said something, anyone was going to care,” she said. Clark, a respected figure at the theatre, could get away with more than just any director, Charlton said.

“I do not believe that just anybody, like any of the guest directors, could have just come in and suggested that without people very adamantly questioning it or saying that it couldn't happen, I really don't,” Charlton said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, it’s Burgess, he must have a reason,’ and that’s how it was in the community.”

Murphy said she blames the theatre for not responding more seriously to the 2017 event, which she described as a “red flag.”

“If the Boston Children's Theatre was clear with him that because children were going to be watching and participating in the performance, that it was particularly inappropriate,” Murphy said. “And yet they experienced his defiance, and they should have interpreted that as a complete lack of respect for sexual boundaries of children, period. They didn't need more than that.”

Charlton said ultimately, a children’s theatre needs to have higher standards for safety than a theatre environment designed for adults.

"Yes, you need to push boundaries as an actor and as an artist, but you also need to take responsibility and be aware of what you are doing," Charlton said. "It's not the same as working with adults. Adults sometimes may not feel comfortable, but they have the ability to speak up for themselves and be an advocate. If you're a kid in that position, I don't think it's as easy to have courage."