A federal investigation that preceded two lawsuits from former Myers Park High students shows years-long discussion in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools on Title IX compliance.
The Charlotte Observer reported Friday that a student’s reported rape on the Myers Park campus about six years ago triggered a U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) probe from 2016 to 2017. While investigators generally found in CMS’ favor after investigating the student’s complaint, the district was warned — as far back as 2015 — there were problems in how sexual assault reports were handled, the Observer found in reviewing public records.
Federal Title IX investigation reveals issues with CMS response to sexual assault reports
The recent settlement of another former students’ lawsuit, and ongoing calls for change from current students and parents for more transparency, have resurfaced questions over how CMS has handled reports of rape and harassment at schools.
Timeline of CMS reports
October 22, 2014: Nikki Wombwell, a former Myers Park student who graduated in 2017, alleges a male student brought a gun to school and threatened to shoot himself if she didn’t agree to meet with him after class. The Observer typically does not name survivors of sexual violence or assault. In this case, Wombwell gave permission for the Observer to include her name.
According to a lawsuit she filed almost five years later — under a protected identity with the pseudonym Jill Roe — Wombwell was taken into the woods on the Myers Park campus and raped.
December 2014: Wombwell told Myers Park Principal Mark Bosco and Bradley Leak, the police officer assigned to the campus, about the assaults, the lawsuit says. According to the court records, the officer said there was insufficient evidence to file criminal charges against the accused male student.
November 3, 2015: Another former Myers Park student, whose identity is protected in legal filings under the pseudonym Jane Doe, alleges she was raped in woods on the school’s campus. Later she and her lawyer told federal education department officials that CMS mishandled her report.
November 19, 2015: CMS officials resolved an earlier federal complaint by telling education department officials they would correct Title IX compliance problems. That earlier investigation by the education department’s Office of Civil Rights also involved reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence but the school location in that case is redacted from public records obtained by the Observer this month.
October 2016: Serena Evans, another former student at Myers Park High, says she was raped in the locker room after tennis practice, she told the Observer this week. Evans gave the Observer permission to use her name.
January 2016: CMS designates a Title IX coordinator for the first time. At the time of earlier sexual assault reports, school administrators, such as principals, were chiefly in charge of investigating and handling such incidents. It was amid complaints that CMS added a Title IX coordinator, whose job, in part, is to ensure sexual violence reports are investigated, which the Observer reported in June.
March/April 2016: CMS revises its Title IX policies and grievance procedures, according to information provided to the Observer from the district.
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May 18, 2016: Doe files a federal Title IX complaint against the district.
December 5, 2017: Investigators in the federal review of CMS find generally in the district’s favor but notes several concerns and one violation in Doe’s case.
December 20, 2018: Doe files a lawsuit against the district. Her lawsuit is pending, with a judge writing last year that there is initial evidence her report of sexual assault was likely not properly handled.
December 20, 2019: Wombwell, represented by the same attorney as Doe, Laura Dunn files a lawsuit alleging the school and district mishandled her report of sexual assault
April 19, 2021: Wombwell’s case was settled for $50,000.
June 2021: Wombwell and an anonymous person start petitions on Change.org calling for changes at Myers Park and the way the district responds to sexual assaults on campus.
June 23, 2021: Principal Bosco sends an email to Myers Park families assuring parents that students on campus are safe.
June 29, 2021: CMS students, mostly from Myers Park High, parents and community members march almost a mile in a planned protest to call for greater transparency, better protocols and more education at school regarding how reports of sexual assault are handled.
Calls for change: Myers Park students want CMS to better address campus sexual assaults