Attorney for Hawthorne Academy, Myers Park students calls for new Dept. of Education investigation

WBTV Investigates: CMS’s handling of reported rapes & sexual assaults
An attorney for current and former students at Hawthorne Academy and Myers Park high schools asked the U.S. Department of Education to open a new investigation.
Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 6:50 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2021 at 6:57 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - An attorney for current and former students at Hawthorne Academy and Myers Park high schools has asked the U.S. Department of Education to open a new investigation into Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Attorney Laura Dunn represents several former Myers Park High School students who reported being raped or sexually assaulted, as well as the Hawthorne Academy High School student who was suspended last month after reporting being sexually assaulted.

On Monday, Dunn emailed the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights, known as OCR, to request a new investigation into CMS.

Related: CMS failed to track reported rapes, assaults on campus

OCR previously entered into an agreement with CMS in 2017 after identifying compliance concerns after a review of the school district’s Title IX policies.

As part of the 2017 agreement, CMS was required to implement changes to its Title IX policies and take other measures.

In her email Monday, Dunn challenged the school district’s current policies and handling of reported sexual assaults and rapes.

“Despite these reviews, OCR has failed to ensure the school district’s Title IX compliance to date, as evidenced in part by the current Title IX policies and procedures attached from CMS, which fails to fully comply with current Title IX regulation and recent OCR guidance,” Dunn wrote.

Dunn’s email cited the ongoing investigation from WBTV into CMS as well as coverage from other local and national outlets as evidence of the continued scrutiny of the school district, which, she said, was cause for another investigation.

“In light of this growing public outrage, I would ask that OCR consider opening another compliance review that contemplates sanctions against CMS pursuant to 20 U.S.C 1682 due to its ongoing failure to come into compliance with Title IX after repeated opportunities to do so from OCR,” Dunn wrote.

“While OCR, to my knowledge, has never levied a sanction under Title IX, this situation warrants the weight of the federal government to finally ensure gender equality within CMS.”

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

Spokesmen for Superintendent Earnest Winston and the school board did not respond to an email seeking comment. Both Winston and members of the board, including Jennifer De La Jara and chairwoman Elyse Dashew, have previously refused to answer questions about the incident at Hawthorne Academy.

Board member Rhonda Cheek has issued multiple statements on the ongoing scrutiny of CMS’s handling of reported sexual violence.

“I remain frustrated by recent events at our schools and how they have been handled by central office,” Cheek said in a Facebook post last week.

Previous: After weeks of silence, CMS superintendent responds to Myers Park students’ reports of rape, sexual assault

“CMS must be a place with students and staff feel safe and valued, and where academic excellence is the goal.”

A report from the Title IX Task Force assembled by Winston in the wake of the scrutiny of the handling of reported rapes and sexual assaults at Myers Park is set to conclude its work by the end of the week.

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