CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A Central Piedmont Community College student was shocked to find a man in the women's bathroom allegedly trying to take her picture under a stall door. She was equally shocked, she said, when she reported the incident to police and they told her what happened was not a crime.
Catherine Barker said she was in a stall in the first-floor women's bathroom in the Belk Building on CPCC's Central Campus when she suddenly noticed something that didn't feel right.
"I noticed a person come through the vertical crack in the bathroom stall and then bend down, so I jumped up and went out the door and they were headed out the bathroom and I said 'you look for somebody?' and the guy started fumbling and mumbling with his phone and trying to get his phone away so I blocked him from the door so he wouldn't get out," Barker recalled days later in an interview with WBTV.
Barker said she grabbed the man's phone and, eventually, led him to a campus security officer to report the incident.
But she said campus security officers told her there was nothing they could do.
"They said that there's no proof that he has any pictures so they can't do anything to him," she said she was told by campus security officers.
Under North Carolina law, it is criminal trespassing for a man to be in a women's bathroom. That point was highlighted last week by Republican lawmakers in the debate over whether to repeal House Bill 2. During that debate, lawmakers pointed to a number of laws that sought to protect women from encountering men in multiple-occupancy bathrooms.
But an incident report provided by CPCC Security shows the incident was classified as a "Student code of conduct violation," not as a violation of any law.
School failed to disclosure incident
Federal law requires colleges and universities to keep a daily log of all crimes—or incidents that could potentially be crimes—that are reported on campus. The requirement is part of a federal law known as the Clery Act, which is aimed at alerting those on colleges campuses about crimes that occur nearby.
Documents provided by CPCC security show Barker reported Monday's incident in the bathroom to authorities as soon as it happened. But a review of the school's crime log the next day found campus security had failed to list the incident in its daily crime log.
WBTV obtained access to the crime log after multiple security officials first refused to provide the log and, later, demanded to know why a reporter wanted to see it. The Clery Act requires a crime log be made available upon request to anyone who asks to review it.
Instead, the page for Monday's crime log was blank with a message that said "no data for daily crime log."
But Frank LoMonte, Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center and an expert on the Clery Act, said the college should have listed the reported incident in its crime log.
"Any time you have a campus security agency that's called to respond to somebody reporting criminal activity, that's got to show up in the crime log," LoMonte said. "At the very least, the public's entitled to know what happened, where it happened and when it happened."
When a WBTV reporter informed the head of CPCC's security office of the omission, he said what happened in the bathroom was an 'incident' and not a crime.
"That's not the way the Department of Education has told people to complete the Clery logs at all. What they've told people is, when you're called to the scene of anything that resembles a crime, and certainly a peeping Tom or voyeurism incident could resemble a crime, then that's got to be logged," LoMonte explained.
CPCC security, hired police withhold information
In addition to its failure to include Monday's bathroom incident on its daily crime log, CPCC and its hired police agency—Allied Universal Company Police—have also refused to provide information required to be made public under the North Carolina Public Records Act.
Instead of maintaining its own police force, CPCC pays a private, third-party company to provide its police services. That police agency is a fully-licensed police agency authorized by the North Carolina Attorney General under the Company Police Act.
Because Allied Universal Company Police is a sworn law enforcement agency, it is required to provide information about incidents reported to its agency in accordance with the North Carolina Public Records Act. The information required to be made public under the law includes the "nature of a violation or apparent violation of the law."
But neither Allied Universal Company Police nor a spokesman for CPCC have been willing to say what violation of the law it is investigating, even as the school says its campus security—including its contracted police—continue to investigate the incident.
Allied Universal Deputy Police Chief Brian Resetar refused to provide information about any crime reported to his agency when reached by a WBTV reporter on Thursday morning. Resetar said the law does not apply to his agency because his company reports to CPCC security.
Jeff Lowrance, the CPCC spokesman, said the college "rejects [the] claim concerning any federal laws," when asked to comment on the college's failure to disclose Monday's bathroom incident in its daily crime log as required by the Clery Act.
Lowrance issued the following statement:
"The safety and well-being of our students and employees are of the utmost concern to the college. The incident in question remains under investigation by the college. The college will continue discussions with the students involved as part of the ongoing investigation."
Lowrance refused to say whether the incident was being investigated as a crime, even though he said the school's hired company police was assisting with the investigation.
Female student feels unsafe
Catherine Barker, the student who reported the man she thought was trying to take a picture of her while she was in a bathroom stall, said she no longer feels safe on campus.
"It's just a really uncomfortable feeling to have somebody take that away – one of the most private parts of the day. And he's not welcome there," she said.
Barker said she tried to report this incident to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department but was told CPCC's contracted police agency, Allied Universal, has primary jurisdiction over the incident.
She said she has one message for college administrators.
"The administrators, first and foremost, made me feel unsafe," she said.