CMS posts, then deletes statement after WBTV’s Myers Park investigation. Still won’t answer questions.

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 6:27 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education responded to a WBTV investigation last week and then deleted its statement roughly an hour later.

The statement was posted on the CMS board’s Facebook page—separate from the CMS system page—in response to an investigation into a series of former female students who reported being raped, sexually assaulted and sexually harassed at Myers Park High School.

Two former students have sued CMS and the school alleging school administrators and other staff did not respond appropriately after they reported being raped in the woods adjacent to the school in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

In a recent interview, one of the former students—identified as Jill Roe in her lawsuit—recounted the conversation she had with MPHS principal Mark Bosco after reporting her rape in 2014.

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

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

Her lawsuit details how Bosco told her she could get in trouble if her reported rape was investigated and not substantiated.

“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.

“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.

Previous: Parents question CMPD handling of daughter’s reported sexual assault

WBTV made repeated requests to CMS communications staff and school board members for an interview before our original story aired last week. Those requests were denied.

When a reporter showed up at the joint meeting between the school board and county commissioners last week, both Superintendent Earnest Winston and board chair Elyse Dashew refused to answer 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.

But that changed late last week, when a lengthy statement was posted to the CMS school board’s Facebook page.

The statement said the following:

“It is not our usual practice to comment on legal matters involving the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. No matter what we say or how we say it, it will sound to some as if we are making excuses. We are also legally constrained from commenting on student matters, a constraint intended to protect the privacy of students. However, a recent story by Nick Ochsner of WBTV contained numerous misstatements of fact that compel us to correct the record.

Myers Park, like all schools in the district, are required to thoroughly investigate claims of sexual misconduct. While schools take every precaution to protect students, it is impossible to guarantee that misconduct will not occur.

Ochsner’s story focused primarily on two cases involving Myers Park students and events that occurred in 2014 and 2015. Neither case was a rape. Although the Roe case was settled, it was not because we could not have prevented the incident; or that the school was unsafe; or because the incident was not investigated. Ms. Roe dropped out of college for reasons unrelated to the Myers Park incident; we are prohibited from disclosing those reasons.

Myers Park principal, Mark Bosco, did not learn of the Roe matter until approximately to months after it occurred. He immediately investigated the incident, including meeting with Ms. Roe and her parents. After that meeting, measures were put in place to keep the students separated. Neither Ms. Roe or her parents voiced disagreement over those measures or took any further action – they did not contact the learning community superintendent; they did not contact the superintendent; and they did not contact Board members. Instead, Roe filed a lawsuit 5 years later.

The Doe case, which was filed before Roe, is still active. The district has filed a motion for summary judgement, which is a legal challenge to the merits of the case.

As for the statement by the student who graduated in 2019, she has not identified herself so we are unable to investigate her claims of sexual harassment at Myers Park. In addition, reported claims of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct at our schools are thoroughly investigated in accordance with Title IX. Principals and school staff receive annual training on Title IX reporting and investigating requirements.

We care about our students and their physical and mental well-being. If there are students at Myers Park, or any of our schools, who have been harassed, sexually assaulted, or do not feel safe for whatever reason, please notify your principal, teacher, or counselor.

Stories that misstate the facts, as the WBTV story did, do not help our students or our schools. We do not expect reporters to advocate for us in their stories. But we do expect them to be fair and accurate, and that did not happen here.”

The statement was deleted roughly an hour after it was posted. CMS officials have not issued any additional statement nor have they explained why the initial statement was posted and quickly deleted.

Watch: CMS superintendent, chairwoman refuse to answer questions

Laura Dunn, an attorney who represents both formers students who filed lawsuits against CMS and the school, issued a statement in response to the CMS board statement.

“Through its tone-deaf online post attempting to challenge WBTV’s coverage, the Board has demonstrated its ongoing willingness to excuse rather than change the toxic culture at MPHS,” Dunn said.

“Instead of addressing the outpouring from female students on the petition, the Board seeks to discount the lawsuits brought by Jill Roe and Jane Doe.”

The statement said Roe, the former student, and her parents are asking CMS to hold a public hearing to listen to the concerns of current and former students and their parents.

School board member Sean Strain posted his own statement on Facebook on Sunday, saying the following:

“There is nothing more important than protecting the well-being of students while under our watch - from the school bus to the campus and back. I have no tolerance for bullying, harassment or assault when CMS is responsible and expect that investigations will be done fairly, comprehensively, and with a focus on confirming the facts. Allegations of misconduct by students and/or staff must be fully adjudicated and individuals held to account for their words, decisions and deeds based on findings of fact. In every case.”

WBTV has renewed its request for an on-camera interview with a CMS representative, in light of the board’s statement, but that request has not gotten a response.

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