Students, alumni protest, demand action into CMS handling of reported sexual assaults

Petitions seeking investigation of CMS’s handling of reported rapes & sexual assault cases has reached more than 14,500 as of Saturday afternoon
Published: Nov. 20, 2021 at 6:37 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg students and alumni staged a protest Saturday afternoon to voice their concerns about how the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School district handles sexual assault investigations.

The protest at Park Road Park 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 Myers Park High School and Hawthorne Academy High School. Recently, a student at Hawthorne Academy High School was suspended after reporting being sexually assaulted at the school.

Those protesting are demanding a full, external Title IX investigation into Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and school leaders.

A petition seeking an investigation into CMS’s handling of the reported sexual assault cases has reached more than 14,500 signatures as of Saturday afternoon.

Students say they want to see non-retaliation policies for students who report assaults and better education for students on Title IX rights.

“No matter the circumstance for the assault only the perpetrator can be held accountable because people shouldn’t be afraid to report because it happened in a boys bathroom or because they were skipping class or something,” former Myers Park student Nikki Wombwell said. “People should feel safe to report no matter the circumstances because no matter the circumstances they deserve justice and they didn’t deserve what happened to them.”

On Friday, 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.

A task force formed by CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston was set up to evaluate how the district handles issues related to Title IX. The task force met for the final time earlier this week.

That task force has worked in secret. 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.

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 to oversee compliance, including about investigation.”

Over the past few months, six women have come forward to publicly detail what happened after they reported being raped or sexually assaulted by a fellow student at Myers Park High School.

Each woman reported to both school administrators and police. Nothing happened after their reports.

Then, a sophomore student at Hawthorne Academy High School in Charlotte 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 juvenile for sexual battery as a result of the female student’s report, a CMPD spokesman confirmed.

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

Then, a former Hawthorne Academy High School student told WBTV Investigates that she was made to sign a nondisclosure agreement after reporting being sexually assaulted at the school by a male student.

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

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