CHARLOTTE — The students on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Title IX Task Force made 67 recommendations to the district to ensure student, faculty, and staff protections and due process in CMS schools.
The task force was created in response to several student reports of sexual assault and harassment at CMS schools. Superintendent Earnest Winston formed the team of 11 students and five adults to make recommendations about how CMS’s Title IX policies, procedures, and practices could effectively be implemented while still complying with Title IX.
The task force met a total of six times over a 10-week period between Sep. 22 and Nov. 17.
Students were tasked with the following directives:
- Review existing curricula, policies, and procedures with an eye toward recommendations that would strengthen their enforcement
- Remove any real and perceived barriers to reporting and addressing incidents of sexual harassment or assault
- Provide physical and emotional support to affected students, and
- Identify preventive measures that may create a shift to a culture of deterrence across the district
The task force broke up its report into two parts; first the recommendations from the student members, then those from the adults.
The students on the task force made 67 recommendations total. Among the suggestions, students asked for gender-inclusive language, information on dating violence and peer pressure, realistic examples and Title IX instructor training. They asked for mental health support and more attention in the curriculum to the physical, mental, and emotional trauma assault causes.
Students outlined several glaring reasons as to why they might choose not to report sexual assaults, including “fear of retaliation, fear that nothing will happen, fear of being judged, and fear of harassment on social media.”
Students asked for “clear information about ‘next steps’ and whom to contact for follow-up.” They asked for Title IX information to be posted throughout campus.
To increase trust in teachers and administrators, the students on the task force recommended creating a safe space to report incidents, increasing students’ familiarity with school administrators, and asked that annual listening sessions be held with students.
>>To read the full list of recommendations from the task force, click here.
When it came to due process, students asked that officials “reconcile discrepancies between available Title IX and due process policy information on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and CMS Board websites.” They asked that district suspension rules be revisited. Students asked for anonymous bystander reporting and for Title IX liaisons.
The students asked for periodic updates to the district’s Title IX policies. To help bring practices back in line, task force members also recommended the district work together with law enforcement during their investigations so they can remain on the same page.
The adults’ findings were namely that the CMS Title IX process is problematic and doesn’t line up with best practices.
Melinda Manning teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For more than a decade, she worked directly with students who experienced sexual assault as an assistant dean of students.
“You can see there’s been a huge problem, and that it does at least appear some schools have swept some really egregious cases under the rug,” Manning said.
Now, Manning is a Title IX advocate and she said while the CMS report is the first step toward change, she thinks the findings show the district has been out of touch with how its students feel.
“What it appears is that there’s a lot of students in CMS that haven’t been feeling safe and I’m sure that’s really affected their learning,” Manning said.
Manning said she hopes these recommendations will actually be implemented, and urged students to hold CMS accountable.
“It’s a strategy working well at colleges and universities nationwide -- so there’s no reason high school students can’t do the same thing,” she said.
The district issued a statement saying it remains committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all students. It went on to say:
“The district works to make sure students are aware of and understand the rights and protections under Title IX.
“Staff continues to be trained on properly responding to and investigating claims of Title IX violations, and identifying needed supports for students.”
(WATCH: CMS to ‘beef up’ Title IX office to investigate sex misconduct allegations)
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