By Andrew Dunn
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools continues to come under fire for how it has handled allegations from students who say they were sexually assaulted on campus.
Lawsuits filed by two former students of Myers Park High School claim school administrators failed to take seriously their reports that they were raped or sexually assaulted at school. Since then, several other students of the second-largest high school in the state have come forward to report similar experiences.
Public records reviewed by Carolina Journal show that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools did not report rapes occurring on any of their campuses in those years. State law requires such crimes to be reported. But if a school decides reports of such crimes are unsubstantiated, they do not need to be logged in this data.
The situation mirrors troubling allegations at school districts across the country about failures to adequately prevent and investigate sexual assault on campus. In Loudon County, Virginia, the father of a high school student says the school district has tried to cover up his daughter’s violent sexual assault in a school bathroom by a “gender fluid” boy wearing a skirt.
In both cases, the school districts were accused of running afoul of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a civil rights law that aims to protect students from discrimination based on sex. The situation would also violate Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools policy.
“I expect full compliance with every one of our policies. Not because they are my rules, but because we as a board believe them to be in the best interest of our district, our staff, and most importantly our students,” CMS board member Sean Strain told Carolina Journal. “I certainly consider a failure to implement them fully, along with the processes required to monitor and uphold them, negligent leadership and management.”
A federal investigation of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district completed in 2017 but first revealed publicly this month found that the school district violated some of its obligations under Title IX when it failed to keep adequate records about how it investigated a 2015 report of rape at Myers Park High School. The school also failed to disclose to the student who reported the assault that it closed the investigation after determining the sexual contact was consensual.
After the report, CMS hired an administrator to oversee Title IX compliance for the district, as it was already required to have.
“Schools have an obligation to respond to every report of misconduct,” this administrator, Stephanie McKinney, told the school board in August.
Strain told CJ he’s evaluating whether these Title IX violations warrant new policies to prevent similar situations from happening in the future, or whether current administrators should be held accountable to policies currently in place.
Last week, long-time Myers Park principal Mark Bosco was reassigned to a job in the district’s central office. Bosco has denied any wrongdoing.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston said he has convened a task force to re-evaluate how the school district responds to sexual assault allegations and how these incidents are reported.
“There is a district-wide effort to make sure all students and staff know the procedures for reporting misconduct,” he told school board members at a recent meeting. She said that this school year, all high school students were being trained in their rights and responsibilities under Title IX during the first 10 days of school. Middle school students also receive training, she said. A revised training curriculum is being developed and will be rolled out next school year.
Yet, the new initiatives at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to beef up Title IX compliance have been undercut by several other recent actions.
As the media began reporting on the lawsuits filed by former Myers Park High students, the school board released a blistering statement denying that any rapes occurred, absolved the district of any wrongdoing, and even said that one of the students dropped out of college due to unrelated reasons they would not disclose. The Facebook post containing the statement was later deleted.
Some Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board members have also said in the past two years that they would evaluate whether to reduce the number of school resource officers on campuses.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reports by year
Source: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools