CMS failed to track reported rapes, assaults on campus
Sixth former student breaks silence, details reporting rape at Myers Park High School
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education does not have an accurate record of the number of rapes and sexual assaults reported on its campuses for the past decade, a WBTV investigation has found.
WBTV requested data for all rapes and sexual assaults reported at all CMS campuses since January 2011 as parts of its ongoing investigation into the handling of reported sexual violence at Myers Park High School.
The district responded by providing one-page summary showing just one reported rape—during the 2014-2015 school year—and 84 reported sexual assaults across all campuses.
At the time of the initial data production, the district said it was unable to provide data for January 2011 through the start of the 2012-2013 school year.
After days of questions, and one hour before a WBTV television report, a spokesman for CMS provided additional data for January 2011 through the 2012-2013 school year.
The additional data provided by the district showed one additional reported rape—in the 2011-2012 school year—and a total of 116 reported sexual assaults in that time period.
Altogether, the CMS data show two reported rapes and 200 reported sexual assaults in the past decade.
But WBTV has talked with four women who reported being raped just at Myers Park High School between 2014 and 2016. Two additional women that WBTV has interviewed reported being sexually assaulted.
All six women who spoke with WBTV—including a woman who broke her silence in an interview for this story—reported being raped or sexually assaulted to both police and school administrators. Two of the women have filed lawsuits against the district.
In a statement, CMS spokesman Patrick Smith stood by the district’s claim that there were just two rapes reported in the entire district in that time period by saying those were the reports entered into the school’s record keeping system.
“That system does not necessarily include all reports of sexual misconduct, it includes only those where investigations result in findings of policy violations,” Smith said in a statement.
Smith continued to assert the numbers were accurate even as WBTV pushed for an explanation as to why the district did not keep a record of all sexual violence reported on its campuses.
‘I don’t believe that at all’
The sixth woman to break her silence in an interview with WBTV reported being raped by a fellow student in the woods in 2014.
“One day after school, when we were still on campus for the extracurricular, he took me into the woods and I didn’t really think anything of it because I was just really, really naïve,” she recounted.
“And from there, he proceeded to rape me.”
The woman said she reported the incident several months after it happened, first to an assistant principal, who directed her to the school resource officer from CMPD, who directed her to a school counselor, who re-directed her back to the assistant principal.
“[He] said he believed me because he recognized that boy from being in the woods with several young girls before,” the woman recounted of her conversation with the school resource officer.
“But he didn’t really offer much of anything like he was writing down stuff and typing up stuff but didn’t really say much of what to do or what my options were.”
Similarly, she said the assistant principal did not offer much help other than to issue a ‘stay away’ order against the male student she reported raping her.
“I was just kind of left on my own with my family to kind of figure out what to do,” she recalled.
The woman reported being raped in 2014, the same year as Nikki Wombwell, who previously recounted her experience to WBTV. Wombwell sued the district using the pseudonym Jill Roe. That claim was settled in April, with the district agreeing to pay $50,000.
When the woman who most recently talked with WBTV was told CMS claimed there was just one reported rape in the entire school district in 2014, she took issue with the numbers.
“Yeah, I don’t believe that at all,” she said. “If they’re saying that that’s not mine, then that’s false, because I reported it to several people.”
New legal filing alleges false testimony
The same woman who spoke with WBTV this week also filed a legal declaration in federal court as part of a different lawsuit against CMS and CMPD alleging the district, Myers Park administrators and the school resource officer didn’t properly respond when a student, who’s using the pseudonym Jane Doe, reported being raped in the woods by a fellow student in 2015.
Lawyers for Doe allege the new woman’s experience contradicts previous testimony under oath from the then-school resource officer Bradley Leak, a defendant in the case, and Myers Park administrators.
“While under oath, Defendant Leak repeatedly sought to deny knowledge of any previous sexual assaults occurring between students in the woods adjacent to MPHS before the incident with Ms. Doe,” the court filing said.
“Along with the other student-survivors who have spoken out in recent news coverage, these declarations contradict Defendant Leak’s sworn testimony and the similar denials about any sexual assaults occurring in the woods adjacent to MPHS made while under oath by MPHS Principal Mark Bosco and MPHS Assistant Principal, Defendant Anthony Perkins,” the filing continued.
CMPD, CMS and Leak have not yet responded to the new claims but previously denied allegations in the Doe lawsuit and asked a judge to rule in favor of defendants, essentially throwing the case out.
Bosco, who is not a named defendant in the Doe lawsuit, has previously not responded to multiple requests from WBTV for comment.
Internal emails show confusion, contradiction on sexual violence numbers
Emails provided by CMS in response to a records request from WBTV show district officials do not keep one set of data tracking reports of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus.
The emails were exchanged between CMS communications staff and officials in the Title IX office, which is responsible for handling reports of sexual violence, in response to a request from a Charlotte Observer reporter for data about Myers Park High School.
In planning how to provide the numbers, Patrick Smith, the district’s top spokesman, first suggested staff provide information from CMPD reports of sexual harassment on campus.
Another staffer responded by suggesting the district pull numbers from PowerSchool, CMS’ record keeping system, and the Title IX office.
Initially, an employee who manages data in PowerSchool responded with numbers for each year but copied the district’s chief equity and accountability officer, Dr. Frank Barnes.
Barnes responded by pointing out he did his own search and found different numbers.
“In using the Navigator Portal, I looked for incidents from 7/1-6/30 for reach school year noted below, looking for incidents coded as Harassment: Sexual (038-UB). The figures in parenthesis below are what I found,” Barnes wrote.
“In 2015-2016, our numbers were far off from each other. Given that, I want to affirm that PowerSchool is our system of record. If a deeper look is required to reconcile the differences in reporting, please let me know.
Barnes ended his email by suggesting more work to figure out why the numbers were different.
“A deeper investigation can be done, but will require additional time and humane resources,” Barnes said. “Given the differences, that may be recommended.”
The numbers in Barnes email are as follows:
15-16: 7 (11)
16-17: 5 (4)
17-18: 6 (6)
18-19: 3 (3)
19-20: 3 (2)
20-21: 0 (0)
Separate from the numbers Barnes and other discussed in PowerSchool, the Title IX officer had completely different numbers:
2016 – 1
2017 – 4
2018 – 1
2019 – 6
2020 – 3
2021 – 1
Smith, the spokesman, provided an explanation of differences between the data in PowerSchool and the data kept by the Title IX office that did not address why the numbers were so different.
“There will likely always be a difference in the numbers in the central Title IX reporting system and what is entered into PowerSchool,” Smith said. “The process includes reporting all sexual misconduct allegations in the central Title IX reporting system. PowerSchool should include all reports that result in findings of policy violations.”
In addition to the two sets of numbers CMS staff grappled with to answer the question from the Charlotte Observer reporter, lawyers for CMS gathered yet a different set of information of sexual violence reports to produce to attorneys in a second lawsuit against the district, CMPD and Myers Park Administrators.
After initially refusing to provide data on the number of reported rapes and sexual assaults for Myers Park and CMS, respectively, a lawyer for the district ultimately agreed to produce “documents regarding student on student sexual misconduct reports for CMS for the school years 2010-11 to 2014-2015,” court documents show.
The district’s lawyer further explained how the data would be compiled.
“This information would be ascertained from disciplinary records and would be produced with redactions of all student and employee names,” he said.
Despite that, that information was not used to answer the Charlotte Observer reporter’s question nor to fulfill the records request from WBTV.
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