Another Charlotte mom calls WBTV for help after daughter’s reported sex assault

WBTV Investigates: CMS administrators didn’t call police or file required paperwork.
Another CMS student has reportedly fallen victim to sexual assault on a school bus.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 10:50 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The mother of a 13-year-old girl who attended Turning Point Academy called WBTV for help after the girl was reportedly sexually assaulted on a school bus.

Latonja Whitaker said she was shocked to learned about the incident ten days after it happened, when an administrator from the school called her.

School administrators did not call police to report the incident and only filled out the required paperwork after WBTV began investigating.

According to school documents, the incident happened on a school bus on April 17. The incident was reported by three students to a counselor at the school the next day, April 18, according to the school’s write-up of the incident.

Whitaker was told about the incident for the first time April 27. She said she asked her daughter what happened after talking with the school administrator.

“She said that they was punching on her, they was choking her and they was holding her down by her arms and her legs and, you know, just touching her in her privates,” Whitaker said.

Related: Charlotte school system back under investigation for handling of sex assault cases

When Whitaker found out about what happened, she called Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police to file a report. An officer came to her house hours later but did not fill out a police report.

WATCH: Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board Members won't answer questions about repeated mishandling of reported sexual assaults.

The next morning, the CMPD officer assigned to Turning Point Academy as the school resource officer called Whitaker to discuss the incident. But he, too, did not fill out a police report.

CMPD did not start investigating the incident until WBTV called to ask why a report had not been completed.

Lieutenant Kevin Pietrus with CMPD acknowledged the department’s delay in opening an investigation into the incident and said it stemmed from multiple factors, both in and outside of the agency’s control.

“This isn’t an ideal outcome,” Pietrus said. “If we’re going to write up a model procedure for how this should go, this wasn’t it,” Pietrus said.

But even if CMPD had began investigating the night Whitaker called, Pietrus said, detectives would still have been at a disadvantage because they school did not notify them immediately after learning it happened.

“What we would say is, hey, as law enforcement, we want to be notified right away,” Pietrus said.

“We want to be able to talk to witnesses. We want to be able to respond to the scene, we want to be able to maybe collect physical evidence.”

WBTV sent a detailed email to CMS Interim Superintendent Dr. Crystal Hill seeking an interview for this story.

Hill has touted improvements the district has made in improving reports of sexual violence on campus but has refused to answer questions as a string of concerned mothers have come forward to question how CMS handled their daughters’ reported sexual assaults.

Through a spokeswoman, Hill said she was unable to answer questions for this story.

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

Similarly, all but one member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education refused to answer questions for this story.

Seven school board members stood silent in a room before the start of an open meeting and refused to answer questions from a WBTV reporter about why CMS continued mishandling reported sexual assaults.

The only board member to speak on this topic was vice chairwoman Stephanie Sneed.

“I think we have a responsibility to be responsive to parents. And I think that we will be, in the capacity that we can,” Sneed said.

Related: CMS board chair won’t answer questions about recent sex assault reports

The ninth board member, chair Elyse Dashew, was not at the meeting and has not responded to multiple emails seeking comment for this story.

While most board members remain silent, Whitaker is still waiting for an explanation from the school district about why more wasn’t done in the wake of her daughter’s reported sexual assault.

“I don’t think any child is safe in Charlotte Mecklenburg schools,” Whitaker said. “As long as they have the administrators that they have in office now, I don’t think any student is.”