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Hawthorne Academy principal, assistant principal suspended after WBTV investigation into handling of reported sexual assault at school

This comes more than a week after WBTV first reported on a sophomore student who said she was punished after she reported she had been sexually assaulted by a male classmate
Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 4:58 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2021 at 7:26 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Hawthorne Academy High School Principal Diann Weston and assistant principal Nina Adams have been suspended with pay in the wake of an ongoing WBTV investigation into the handling of reported sexual assaults at the school.

Students and parents were notified of the move in a message from district administrators late Tuesday afternoon.

WBTV first reported last week about a sophomore student who reported being sexually assaulted by a classmate in August and was suspended late last month because, administrators said, she filed a false report.

The mother of the student who was suspended after reporting a sexual assault issued a statement in the wake of Weston’s suspension late Tuesday.

“My daughter wants everyone to know that she thanks them and it makes her feel she has more support,” the statement said in part.

“We never expected to get as much publicity as we did but we want everyone to know that things like this should be heard and not hidden.”

A lawyer for the student, Laura Dunn, also issued a statement on Tuesday. In addition to the Hawthorne Academy student, Dunn has also represented students who reported being raped or sexually assaulted at Myers Park High School.

“CMS had plenty of opportunities to avoid yet another campus sexual assault scandal, but rather than taking meaningful action when issues arose at Myers Park High School, it has waited for another disaster to strike at Hawthorne Academy,” Dunn said.

“All parents need to stand with their students at this time and demand change so this does not happen to another student ever again.”

On Monday, a second Hawthorne Academy student came forward to details what happened after she reported a sexual assault in 2019. The second student, Rashika Chamlagai, said she was made to sign a nondisclosure agreement that prevented her from talking about the incident.

In the case of the current student who reported a sexual assault this school year, administrators referred the report to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, who charged a juvenile with sexual battery as a result of the report.

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

Chamlagai, the student who reported being sexually assaulted in 2019, described being made to sign an agreement that included ten bullet points. The main one that still sticks out to her today is that she would not be able to speak about her reported sexual assault until she graduated.

“I signed the NDA because I was overwhelmed and I felt pressure because I didn’t know what was going to happen if I didn’t,” Chamlagai said.

WBTV Investigative Reporter Nick Ochsner sought answers from Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District and Hawthorne Academy leaders.

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 Hawthorne Academy Principal, Weston, did not respond to multiple emails sent to Superintendent Earnest Winston and the CMS school board on Tuesday, October 26 and continued emailing requests for an interview through last Friday, November 5.

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

A spokesman for Winston, Patrick Smith, would not agree to schedule an interview with Winston and did not respond to questions about how a CMS student could be suspended for reporting a sexual assault. But did send a statement.

“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.

Winston continued his refusal to answer questions on Tuesday afternoon, when Ochsner found him before a school board meeting.

Members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board refused to answer questions about the student who was suspended after reporting being sexually assaulted.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board member Rhonda Cheek issued a statement last week, 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.

“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.”

Superintendent Winston released a new written statement last week:

“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.”

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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