CMS board member says she’s frustrated by lack of information in Hawthorne Academy sexual assault case

WBTV Investigates: Sophomore at Hawthorne Academy HS reported sexual assault, then was suspended by school
Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 5:13 PM EDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board member Rhonda Cheek issued a new statement late Wednesday night, voicing frustration at senior CMS staff for not providing any information about the student at Hawthorne Academy High School who was suspended after reporting being sexually assaulted.

Cheek emailed a statement in response to an email WBTV sent each school board member on Monday asking for reaction to what we uncovered.

Only one other board member, Sean Strain, responded to the email. Strain said he could not comment because he had not been briefed.

In her statement, Cheek reiterated the lack of information being provided to board members.

I cannot comment on this matter because I have still not been briefed or provided any information about this Hawthorne situation,” Cheek said.

“I will share that I am frustrated by this lack of information,” the statement continued. “I realize that there are sometimes legal reasons for limited info, but to date I have gotten no information.”

Previous: CMS board members won’t answer questions about student suspended after reporting sexual assault

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

Previous: Hawthorne Academy students leave class, express anger over student suspended for reporting sexual assault

The statement went on to say that she is also frustrated that the issue of sexual assaults continues to come up.

“I am frustrated that we are in a place where we are still having these concerns. I will continue to press for answers. I will continue to press for change,” she said.

Other than Cheek and Strain, no CMS board member has responded at all to WBTV.

On Tuesday, three board members refused to answer questions from Chief Investigative Reporter Nick Ochsner when he showed up at a public meeting.

Similarly, nobody from CMS has been in touch with the student at Hawthorne Academy High School or her mother since WBTV began asking questions.

She remains suspended and still must attend a class entitled Sexual Harassment is Preventable.

A 15-year-old girl reported being sexually assaulted by a fellow student at school. Police investigated and filed charges.

Superintendent Earnest Winston, who was not at Tuesday’s public school board meeting and has not faced questions on-camera, released a new written statement late Wednesday afternoon.

“As a parent, I understand the concerns many families are sharing about news coverage of incidents of misconduct. It is difficult for me to not give in to the parental instinct of providing information to help others gain a better understanding of situations, which many times prove more complex than news reports might lead one to conclude.

As the leader of the district, I am bound by law to not disclose confidential information about such matters as individual student discipline or ongoing police investigations.”

WBTV has previously offered a spokesman for Winston for the Hawthorne Academy student and her mother to authorize CMS to discuss her case, so that CMS could more fully respond to our investigation. That offer did not receive any response.

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

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