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A CMS student reported being sexually assaulted. Then she was suspended.

WBTV Investigates: School administrators at Hawthorne Academy High School accused the female student of filing a false report, despite CMPD charges
Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 3:14 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 1, 2021 at 6:24 PM EDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A sophomore student at Hawthorne Academy High School was suspended late last month after reporting being sexually assaulted by a male classmate.

The female sophomore student said she reported the sexual assault to school officials after sitting through a Title IX education class at the beginning of the school year.

School officials alerted police to the report. CMPD investigated and ultimately pressed charges against a minor for sexual battery as a result of the female student’s report, a CMPD spokesman confirmed.

Related: ‘I was already scared.’ Second Hawthorne Academy HS student says she was told to stay silent about reported sexual assault

Despite the charges by police, school administrators at Hawthorne Academy High School accused the female student of filing a false report and suspended her.

The girl’s outraged mother called WBTV’s Chief Investigative Reporter Nick Ochsner whose ongoing investigation has shined a light on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ handling of reported rapes and sexual assaults.

The 15-year-old sophomore student recounted the near-daily harassment she experienced from a male student.

Until one day when she said it turned into more.

“He would, like, come into the bathroom and he would push me into the stall,” the girl said. “He put his hands in my pants and then he was like touching my breasts.”

WBTV agreed to not identify the girl or her mother, since the girl reported being a victim of sexual violence.

Mother says teen punished after reporting sexual assault at CMS school despite student charged
Mother says teen punished after reporting sexual assault at CMS school despite student charged(WBTV)

“The school did their investigation, gave me a phone call, and said, ‘Hey, look, unfortunately, it looks like there’s no evidence that shows that what your daughter saying took place,’ the mother said.

“We’re going to have to give her a day of suspension, and you know, so then that I asked the principal, I said, ‘well if the police are telling me that he did do these things, he admitted to them, and that I have the right to press charges, you’re telling me this didn’t happen? And she said, ‘well, unfortunately, what the law does has nothing to do to do with CMS, so, unfortunately, we have nothing else that we can do about this.’”

Ochsner asked the mother what was going through her mind when she was having that conversation.

“I really just thought I had faith in CMS, that they were going to do right by my daughter,” she said. “So when I got that phone call I was hurt.”

Ochsner: “CMS says they take sexual assaults seriously. They take Title IX seriously. They want students to report these instances. What would you say to that?”

Mother: “I would say that it’s a lie. They don’t. They don’t have your children’s back.”

In addition to suspending the female student, CMS is also making her attend a class called “Sexual Harassment is Preventable.”

“They are making her feel like she is being punished for coming forward,” the mother said.

After speaking with the student and her mother, WBTV submitted interview requests to spokesmen for Superintendent Earnest Winston and the CMS School Board and also reached out to Hawthorne Academy Principal Diann Weston.

Weston and a spokesman for the school board, Charles Jeter, did not respond at all to multiple emails seeking an interview for this story.

Patrick Smith, a spokesman for Winston, would not schedule a time for Winston to answer questions and would not respond to emailed questions about the situation at Hawthorne Academy, even when presented with the option of having the student and her mother agree to allow the district to discuss details of the case with a reporter.

“District leaders review assertions of Title IX reporting problems and will take appropriate action in the event any review reveals action is necessary,” Smith said in an email statement.

The student’s mother said she thinks what happened to her daughter could discourage future students from reporting sexual violence at CMS schools.

“That scares me because she told me how hard it was for her to come out and tell this story to me to the school, to the police,” the mother said.

Read more of WBTV’s investigation into CMS’s handling of reported rapes & sexual assaults

If you have a tip or complaint that you want WBTV to investigate, email our team at investigates@wbtv.com.

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