CMS board focuses on students reporting sexual violence after presentation
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board got a presentation late Tuesday night on the district’s policies surrounding a federal law that regulates how schools handle reports of sexual violence and harassment.
The law, known as Title IX, requires school leaders take certain steps and make certain accommodations in response to students who report being raped, sexually assaulted or sexually harassed, among other things.
But the experiences of six women, all of whom reported being raped or sexually assaulted at Myers Park High School, in a series of WBTV investigations have called into question the district’s compliance with the law.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, students sat in the audience holding signs calling on the board to revise its Title IX policies as current and former students addressed the board regarding the handling of the reported rapes and sexual assaults at Myers Park.
During the public comments, some speakers highlighted the district’s failure to track the number of reported sexual violence across the district.
WBTV previously reported that the district failed to keep adequate records of reported rapes and sexual assaults over the past decade. CMS data, the district says, shows just two reported rapes across all campuses reported in the past decade.
A district spokesman has said -- and staff reiterated at Tuesday’s meeting -- the district only records cases where school administrators determine a report was substantiated.
The bulk of the Title IX presentation from CMS staff and questions from board members on Tuesday focused on efforts to educate students.
“I feel like we need to have an honest conversation with our students,” student representative Breana Fowler said.
Board member Margaret Marshall, whose district includes Myers Park, encouraged staff to implement a revamped Title IX training to students by the end of this school year.
Carol Sawyer, who represents District 4, asked staff how students and parents could find resources to report sexual violence on the CMS website if they didn’t know what Title IX was.
Chairwoman Elyse Dashew’s comments also centered on students.
“Students absolutely need to be abundantly aware of how to report,” she said.
None of the CMS board members asked questions about what was being done to ensure staff at schools properly handle reports of sexual violence.
Each of the six women who were interviewed by WBTV said they reported to both police and school administrators but nothing happened.
CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston told board members he met with all school principals in July and reiterated a zero tolerance policy for those who do not follow proper protocols when students report sexual violence, a pledge he made during an interview with WBTV in mid-July.
Late Friday, Winston also announced a new taskforce to evaluate the district’s current Title IX policies.
But multiple speakers at Tuesday’s meeting, including Nikki Wombwell, who reported being raped by a fellow student in 2014, called on the district to include input from women who have reported sexual violence as they evaluate the district’s policies.
“Myself and the other survivors would love to assist the school board and the newly-formed Title IX task force in any way we can to implement these changes and more,” Wombwell said. “However the board is refusing to meet with survivors like myself.”
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