CMS to do more toward sexual assault investigations, but victims say they’ll believe it when they see it

North Carolina

CHARLOTTE (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced changes to the way it will handle sexual assault allegations amid growing criticism against the school district.

On Friday, CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston announced that he will be moving investigations into sexual assault allegations to the central office for more consistency, and CMS will be hiring more staff as part of the Title IX team.

This will mean school administrators won’t be handling the sexual assault cases, as they are now, but instead, all of the investigations will be done out of the central office.

A woman who says she was sexually assaulted on a CMS campus years ago is skeptical that the changes will be helpful.

A former Myers Park High School student tells FOX 46 she’s worried the proposed changes could make victims more hesitant to come forward, or they might be afraid the allegations will just be swept under the rug, and they could keep quiet for years as she did.

“It was like, I literally broke out of a prison cell this summer, and it has been so healing, but also at the same time it has definitely been difficult,” said Serena Evans.

Evans says she was raped at Myers Park High School when she was a freshman in 2016.

“He was allowed to continue playing football, be a glorified athlete while I had an ovarian cyst rupture. I had PTSD, couldn’t get in the car, without having panic attacks screaming at my mom, ‘Take me home,” said Evans.

Evans says school leaders did not take her seriously and even threatened she’d be suspended if she moved forward with an investigation.

“I was like, ‘Why do you not believe me? Why are you not listening? Why are you invalidating me?” said Evans.

Myers Park students have protested over how CMS handles sexual assault allegations, and they’re not the only ones. FOX 46 has covered protests this year at Hawthorne Academy and Olympic High Schools.

One week after students protested at Hawthorne Academy, the principal, and the assistant principal was suspended with pay. Former Myers Park Principal Mark Bosco was eventually suspended but he was later reassigned to a senior administrator position within CMS.

“Our goal, my goal is to take the responsibility of investigations of sexual misconduct allegations out of the hands of our school-level staff and put that with the additional staff that we will hire,” said CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston.

Evans wants change but says she’ll believe it when she sees it with CMS.

“They’ve made it more than clear that their reputation is everything and their reputation matters more than their students and I’m worried that that’s going to continue to be the case,” said Evans.

In a totally separate effort, a Title IV task force, made up mostly of students, could have a report to CMS before Thanksgiving on how it can better handle sexual assault allegations.

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