CMS announces change to sexual violence investigations

WBTV Investigates: Change comes after student was suspended for reporting sexual assault
Changes being announced by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in reaction to stories first uncovered in a WBTV investigation.
Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 8:03 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 19, 2021 at 10:13 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston announced that the district will hire additional staff to centralize the investigation of reported sexual violence at the district’s schools.

Currently, the district designates staff at each campus to handle investigating reported rapes and sexual assaults.

Winston announced the change at a hastily-called press conference Friday morning.

The press conference came after months of scrutiny prompted by a series of WBTV investigations into the handling of reported rapes and sexual assaults at multiple high schools, including a student at Hawthorne Academy High School who was suspended in late October after reporting a sexual assault earlier this year.

CMS Superintendent Winston talks about changes in response to reported sexual assaults

It also comes days after a task force formed by Winston to evaluate how the district handles issues related to Title IX met for the final time.

That task force has worked in secret, its recommendations have not been made public. At Friday’s press conference, Winston said the group was finalizing its report with recommendations and would submit it to him by the end of the month.

Winston did not give details on how many new staff members would be hired to handle Title IX investigation. And he said the new positions were currently only funded through the end of the current year. But, he added, continuing funding for the jobs would be a priority for future budget requests.

Attorney Laura Dunn, who represents the Hawthorne Academy High School student who was suspended and several former Myers Park High School students who reported being raped or sexually assaulted, said Winston’s announcement on Friday merely brings the district into compliance with federal law.

“CMS took 46 years to come into partial compliance with Title IX,” Dunn said. “Back in 1975, Title 9 regulations required school districts to have a single person called a Title 9 Coordinator oversee compliance, including about investigation.”

Currently, CMS designates an administrator at each campus to handle reports of sexual assault.

“We are still looking into this, but information so far suggests that the Title 9 coordinator for CMS has not been overseeing complaints or investigations and the district has left individuals, often assistant principals, to make whatever decision they feel is appropriate without any oversight, without the necessary training as well,” Dunn said.

“So to hear today that they are at least going to have some oversight, some trained investigators, I think that’s a step in the right direction. But I don’t want the public to be fooled, they are just coming into compliance with Title IX after 46 years.”

WBTV Investigates: Change comes after student was suspended for reporting sexual assault

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