Education

Report on CMS sexual assaults, secret until now, provides glimpse of student abuse

An investigative report from the federal Office of Civil Rights, sent to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in 2015 but just made public at the Observer’s request, provides a disturbing glimpse of sexual assaults against students.

Investigators reviewed 96 sexual harassment complaints from students, lodged between 2010 and 2013. The report includes details on eight cases that rose to the level of sexual assault and resulted in discipline against students or employees. CMS signed an agreement laying out steps designed to prevent sexual harassment and improve procedures for dealing with it if it happens.

Here are the cases described in the report, which came to light after controversy erupted over a book used in a first-grade lesson that meets the federal requirement to teach students about unwanted touch and harassment. Individuals and schools are not named in the report.

In most of these cases, the Office of Civil Rights said it found little or no documentation of support services for the victim or assessment of whether the schools were a hostile environment.

November 2013: Parents of a high school student told the principal that a teacher groped her breast and buttocks “and possibly engaged in oral sex with her.” The teacher was immediately removed from school and later charged with a felony.

January 2013: A female high school teacher was pulled over by police, who discovered that a male special education student was in the car with her. The student told police he was having a sexual relationship with the teacher. The teacher was suspended with pay during an investigation, then resigned in March.

February 2012: After a female middle school student tried to cut her wrist, a guidance counselor heard that the student had been sexually assaulted by a male student in the restroom in November 2011. The student told the counselor that the male student had followed her into a stall, dropped his pants, tried to remove her dress and tried to force her to perform oral sex. The male student was suspended for 10 days, reassigned to his home school and required to complete community service and sexual harassment education.

December 2011: A parent reported that two students forced her son to stay in a high school locker room after wrestling practice and threatened him with violence if he did not strip naked. They reportedly videotaped the student while he was naked. The school and police investigated, and the accused students were criminally charged and assigned to “alternative placement” for 180 days.

November 2011: A high school student reported that her math teacher made inappropriate comments, including calling her beautiful, talking about marrying him and making a reference to oral sex. She said he also seated her near his desk where he had to squeeze past her and looked down her blouse. The student was immediately removed from that class and the teacher received a written reprimand.

October 2011: Two male middle school students reportedly pushed a female student against a locker while one of the boys groped her buttocks. One of the accused students was suspended for 10 days. The office found no record of action taken against the second accused student.

June 2011: A male high school student reportedly groped a female student “in the genital area” and used a sexual epithet to refer to her. He was suspended for 30 days, followed by a probationary period.

March 2011: A parent reported that a middle school student “sat on her child’s head with his genitals near his face and attempted to force a belt into his mouth.” The accused student was assigned to “an alternative placement” for 180 days.

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms

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