CMS chief abruptly ends interview about 5-year-old’s reported assault

WBTV Investigates pushes for answers parents want to know about school bus safety.
CMS interim superintendent Dr. Crystal Hill abruptly ended an interview with WBTV after repeatedly refusing to answer questions.
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 4:38 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The interim superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Dr. Crystal Hill, abruptly ended an interview with WBTV, after repeatedly refusing to answer questions.

The interview, which lasted about 14 minutes until Hill took her microphone and stood up, was scheduled Tuesday morning in response to WBTV’s repeated requests to ask about the report from a five-year-old student who said she was sexually assaulted on a school bus.

WBTV began investigating the kindergarten student’s report after her mother called for help. The girl’s mother said school administrators had gone days without contacting her.

The girl’s mother was especially concerned that her daughter was sat next to one of the boys she reported attacking her the next time she rode the bus.

In response to WBTV’s initial report, a CMS spokeswoman issued a statement saying the district “cannot provide support that is outside of our control or is unduly burdensome.”

The statement did not explain why the girl was not given the protective measures the school’s principal had promised in a form sent home with the child: that she would have a bus buddy and be sat near the bus driver at the front of the bus.

Previous: Child reports being sexually assaulted on school bus. Her mom says CMS did nothing.

WBTV’s investigation prompted the Charlotte chapter of the NAACP to call a news conference Monday to demand CMS improve its handling of reported sexual violence.

“Title IX states, clearly, the language is very clear: you do what you need to do to make sure, ensure, that these students are not coming into contact with each other,” Charlotte NAACP Education Chair Annette Albright said at the news conference.

“We’re here, again! Time and time again, the ball has been dropped, a step has been missed. It’s very simple, very general terms. Why can CMS not comply with Title IX?”

WBTV’s sit-down with Hill came one day after a crew approached her to ask questions as she walked into a budget open house presentation.

“I already responded to you, the questions that you had,” Hill said in that conversation, referring to the district’s statement.

“Is it unduly burdensome to make sure a child who reported being sexually assaulted isn’t sat next to the same student she reported sexually assaulting her?” a WBTV reporter asked.

“What I will say is that we’ve taken every step that we can to protect all students,” Hill responded during the Monday conversation.

During the conversation on Monday, Hill also said the claims by the five-year-old’s mother that school administrators did nothing in response to her daughter’s report were inaccurate.

“Well, it’s not accurate,” Hill said of the mother’s claim.

“Would you say that to the mother of this five-year-old girl?” the reporter asked.

“That is what I would say.”

But she had a different answer on Tuesday, during the sit-down interview.

“I would never, ever, ever authorize communication that we would say anything is unduly burdensome when a parent says that something has happened to their child, there’s nothing that’s unduly burdensome,” Hill said.

“It’s our job to make sure that our students are safe.”

Hill’s answer prompted the reporter to ask why she changed her answer from the day before.

“Because I didn’t realize that what was issued—that specific statement—there was two or three lines that were not accurate,” she explained. “I’m not standing by that statement because it’s legalese.”

“But that’s not what you said yesterday on camera,” the reporter pointed out.

“What I said yesterday on camera, I said that is inaccurate, meaning the statement.”

As Hill was pressed to explain her conflicting answers between Monday’s conversation and Tuesday’s interview, she claimed the interview was reaching it’s 20-minute time limit.

Neither Hill nor any CMS staff put a 20-minute time limit on the interview before it began. And, even if they had, her claim came less than 15 minutes into the interview.

“I will say to you—the last thing that I will say before we close this interview because I believe our time is up—is that again, my job, my responsibility, is to make sure that all students are safe,” Hill said.

“I get up every single morning and say the same prayer for my girls as I do for the students that are here. I take it very seriously that we make sure that we maintain high expectations when parents bring their children to us, they’re trusting us. That’s something that I do not take lightly.”

After that answer, as the reporter tried to ask Hill whether CMS issued required documents in response to the five-year-old girl’s report, Hill said “I think we’re done”, took off her microphone and stood up.

As she stood up, a CMS communications staffer stood in front of two of WBTV’s three cameras set up for the interview.

Hill then left the room.

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