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CMS releases Title IX Task Force report on handling of reported sexual assault cases

WBTV Investigates: Report comes as lawmakers demand more answers, documents
Published: Dec. 14, 2021 at 3:41 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 14, 2021 at 3:53 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools released a report and recommendations of the Title IX Task Force on Tuesday, marking the end of a months-long review of the district’s handling of reported sexual violence.

The task force was announced by Superintendent Earnest Winston in early August, after months of scrutiny sparked by a WBTV investigation into how the district handled reported rapes and sexual assaults at Myers Park High School.

Winston has said the purpose of the task force will be to evaluate how the district handles issues related to Title IX, a federal law that aims to protect against discrimination based on sex. As part of the law, schools must track, report and investigate reports of sexual violence.

The group has operated in near-total secret, with the district refusing to identify most members of the task force except for three CMS employees. In total, the task force is comprised of 11 students, three CMS employees and three outside community members.

An appendix attached to the report provides some additional information on the makeup of the task force but still does not identify task force members by name.

The three outside community members came from Perry Counseling, Healing and Recovery; Pats Place Child Advocacy Center; and the Safe Alliance, according to information included with the report.

Previous: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Title IX task force completes its work with little public details

The report contains 63 recommendations, including many made by student task force members and some made only by adult task force members.

Among the recommendations made by the adult task force members is that the district change the way in which reported sexual violence involving crimes are investigated.

“Recent reporting has revealed that when Title IX allegations are criminal in nature, the CMS Title IX investigative process is inherently problematic and incongruent with local community standards and national best practice approaches, which are designed to protect the integrity of criminal investigations and minimize trauma to children,” the report said.

“Current CMS Title IX investigative protocols contradict best practice standards for interviewing victims of sexual abuse/assault and jeopardize criminal investigations of alleged sexual assault.”

Document: Click hear to read the full Title IX Task Force report

As part of that, the report made specific recommendations including “Assure students of preventive measures against retaliation” and “Change impersonal, procedural approach to sexual violence in schools,” among others.

News of the forthcoming task force report came the same day that top Republicans in the North Carolina Senate sent a new letter to Winston demanding answers and documents detailing the district’s handling of reported sexual violence.

Senator Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell) and Senator Danny Britt (R-Robeson) first sent a letter to Winston last month asking questions related to the Hawthorne Academy High School student who was suspended after she reported being sexually assaulted.

Document: Republicans in the North Carolina Senate send letter to CMS

Among the questions Sawyer and Britt asked was “over the past five years, how many alleged victims of sexual assault have CMS suspended after those students reported the sexual assaults?”

The senators also asked for the curriculum for a class entitled Sexual Harassment is Preventable, known as SHIP training, which the Hawthorne Academy student who reported being sexually assaulted was told she had to take after administrators suspended her.

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

In response, Winston linked to the CMS handbook, which contains one paragraph about the SHIP training and wrote that “no students have been suspended for reporting sexual assaults.”

Sawyer and Britt took issue with Winston’s response in a new letter sent Tuesday.

“We are asking you again to provide precise, full, and truthful answers so we can fully understand the events that have taken place under your leadership,” the senators wrote.

“Lest you forget the seriousness of this issue, we are inquiring about retaliation by a school system against alleged student victims of sexual assault.”

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

The senators’ letter called Winston’s response ‘slippery.’

The letter also asks for Winston and the district to produce the following documents, in addition to the outstanding request for materials related to the SHIP training:

• All communications, including but not limited to emails, text messages, and written notes, between Superintendent Earnest Winston and any CMS staff regarding our letter dated November 8, 2021, and your reply dated November 17, 2021, including drafts, commentary, suggestions, notes, questions, and requests;

• All communications, including but not limited to emails, text messages, and written notes, between Superintendent Earnest Winston and any CMS staff involving the class “Sexual Harassment is Preventable,” beginning January 1, 2020 through today;

• A full list, with names redacted, of all CMS suspensions for “Falsification of Information,” beginning January 1, 2015 through present, including length of suspension and any accompanying notes.

A spokesman for Winston acknowledged an email seeking comment on the letter from Britt and Sawyer but did not immediate provide a statement.

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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