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Myers Park HS students reported rape, sexual assault. Nothing happened.

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 5:50 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – Former female students at Myers Park High School reported being raped, sexually assaulted and sexually harassed by fellow students at school but virtually nothing was done to address the reports, according to former students’ lawsuits and interviews.

Myers Park and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools have faced two lawsuits from former students alleging the school and school system violated federal laws meant to protect students from sexual violence on campus. One of the lawsuits settled in late April.

Requests for an interview for this story sent to CMS communications staff, school board members and the Myers Park principal all went unanswered or were denied.

WBTV has been investigating the way in which Myers Park administrators handle reports of sexual violence on campus since 2015, when a former student first reported being raped in the woods behind the school.

Our 2015 investigation described how a female student had reported being forced into the woods behind the school by her boyfriend and made to perform sex acts. Both in our prior story and in her lawsuit, the student said that her friends managed to flag the school resource officer—a CMPD officer assigned to the school—who found the pair but decided no crime had been committed because, in his estimation, both students had agreed to skip class and go into the woods voluntarily.

Previous: Former Myers Park HS student sues school district over handling of rape allegations

That incident ended with the girl’s mother taking her for a rape kit and police refusing to come to collect the kit for hours, despite multiple calls from hospital staff.

Ultimately, that student and her parents filed a lawsuit against Myers Park, CMS and CMPD, among others. That case is now referred to as the Jane Doe case, using the pseudonym the female student used to file the lawsuit.

‘I was struck by how similar it was to my case’

A second female Myers Park student saw that story in November 2015.

“When I read the report that you guys did on the Jane Doe case, I was struck by how similar it was to my case,” the second student told WBTV in a recent interview.

The second student, who would eventually file a lawsuit against Myers Park, CMS and others under the pseudonym Jill Roe, reported being raped in the woods when she was a 15-year-old sophomore at the school in 2014.

According to the lawsuit Roe filed, her then-boyfriend texted her one day that he had brought a gun to school and would kill himself if she didn’t meet him in the woods adjacent to the school.

Once in the woods, the lawsuit says, the male student forced Roe to undress before he attempted to anally rape her and did vaginally rape her.

Roe reported the incident the next day to a Community in Schools staff member who worked at the school, according to the lawsuit. She was referred to a school counselor who then sent Roe to the school resource officer—the same one who dismissed the 2015 incident—who ultimately took Roe to the school’s principal, Mark Bosco.

Document: Lawsuit filed by Jill Roe against Myers Park High School, CMS

In an interview with WBTV, Roe said she was hesitant to report what happened but did so in hopes school officials would help protect her from future violence.

“It was just a difficult thing to talk about with anyone in the first place; a difficult thing to admit had happened,” she said.

“He was still harassing me and I knew I needed help and I needed an adult to get involved. And, so, I went to the school because I thought they could protect me.”

But instead of helping her, both Roe and her lawsuit allege, both the SRO and Bosco, the principal, dismissed her report.

“Defendant Bosco then informed Ms. Roe that she could make a fifth ‘formal’ report, but then discouraged the 15-year-old Ms. Roe from doing so by claiming that if [the male student] was ‘found innocent’ it would mean that she would be found responsible for having sex on campus to subject her to disciplinary action and negatively impact her good standing at MPHS,” the lawsuit said.

“Bosco then directly implied to Ms. Roe that she should just let the whole thing blow over in order to avoid this risk to her academic future,” the lawsuit continued.

In her interview with WBTV, Roe said she left that meeting with Bosco feeling worse than when she walked in.

“I felt less listened to and less believed leaving there than I did when I came in,” she said.

Bosco confirmed in a deposition under oath that he warned Roe what could happen if her report was found to not be credible at the end of a formal investigation.

“I just wanted her to be aware, and that she was confident that what she thought happened happened,” Bosco said under oath.

During his deposition, Bosco also said he did not have an obligation to report incidents of students reporting rape or sexual assault to either CMPD or CMS Police.

Roe said she is still dealing with the fallout from the trauma she experienced in 2014. She has diagnosed PTSD, has been to multiple inpatient treatment centers and is still in therapy.

She also had to drop out of college.

“It took me over three years to finally go to therapy because I was so disheartened by the way the school handled it that I thought all adults would make me feel the way that the school did and the way that the counselors did and the way the principal did and the way the school resource officer did,’ she said.

“It felt like adults wouldn’t believe me and that if I told anyone they would only make me feel worse. So, I felt like I had to suffer in silence because of the way that the school handled it.”

‘I definitely did not feel super safe’

In the course of reporting this story, WBTV spoke with multiple former Myers Park High School students who said there was a lot of sexual harassment at the school that went unchecked by administrators.

Most declined to talk with a reporter on the record.

But one former student, a female who graduated in 2019, did agree to talk on the condition we not reveal her identity.

The former student said she experienced sexual assault and sexual harassment—including males pinching and touching her in the hallways and elsewhere on campus—on a daily basis.

She said she would report the behavior to administrators but little or nothing was ever done.

“Most of the time they would dismiss it but the times that they didn’t dismiss it to my face, I don’t ever believe that they reached out to that other individual and did anything about it,” she said.

She did not feel safe on campus at Myers Park High School, she said.

“I can’t speak for everybody but I know that I definitely did not feel super safe being there,” she said.

She said she was especially aware that the woods surrounding the school—part of which are owned by CMS and other parts of which are owned by other city and county agencies—were not safe.

“I know some of the girls who had things happen to them in those woods and I know how personally it affected them and how uncomfortable those woods made them, so I felt for my own safety, it would be better to just stay clear of there,” she said.

So, what is CMS and Myers Park doing to make things safer on campus?

A CMS spokesman refused an interview request, saying the district doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Jill Roe settled her lawsuit in late April for $50,000. The Jane Doe case remains pending in federal court.

Multiple emails to Bosco, CMS board chair Elyse Dashew, vice chair Thelma-Byers Bailey and District 5 representative Margaret Marshall, whose district includes Myers Park, all went unanswered.

On Monday, a WBTV reporter attempted to ask questions of CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston for this story. He stared straight ahead, emotionless, and did not acknowledge the reporter when asked what, if anything, the district was doing to respond to reports of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment from female students at Myers Park High School.

CMS board chair Elyse Dashew said she had been instructed not to respond to WBTV’s questions.

“I really don’t comment on legal matters,” Dashew said when first approached by a reporter.

“There are legal matters involved here, and so I’ve been advised to follow our usual protocol,” Dashew said after further pressing.

That continued silence from school leaders is why Jill Roe chose to file a lawsuit and speak out now.

“I need to help because what happened to Jane Doe was so messed up, what happened to me was so messed up and it’s a school’s job to protect people,” she said.

“It’s a school’s job to protect their students and when they don’t do that, I feel like someone has to stand up.”

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