CHARLOTTE — A woman is suing Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools for failing to address the culture that led to her sexual assault while she was a student at Myers Park High School. She also alleges the investigation into the attack was not thorough.
In the lawsuit, Serena Evans alleges she began experiencing sexual harassment, including unwanted physical touching and verbal harassment, while she was a seventh grade student at Alexander Graham Middle School.
Channel 9 does not typically identify victims of sexual assault, but in this case, Evans’ attorney said we could use her name.
The harassment continued and intensified when she started at Myers Park High in 2016, the complaint reads.
“From the time she arrived on campus, [Evans] experienced unwelcome sexual advances from some male students who were emboldened by formal and informal ‘traditions’ at the school,” the document said.
Those “traditions” included on-campus areas that students allegedly frequented for sexual activity, the lawsuit said. One of the places named was a bathroom near the gym and locker rooms. The culture of using that bathroom for sex was embedded in the school and was well known to faculty and administrators, the complaint alleges.
“This hyper-sexualized culture at MPHS was fueled in large part by a general consensus that student-athletes – especially male student-athletes – were ‘above the law’ and free from recrimination for rule-breaking,” the lawsuit reads.
Evans said in Oct. 2016, while waiting outside a classroom for a teacher, she was propositioned for sex by a male athlete. She said he kept verbally and physically harassing her at school after that day.
Then later that month, Evans said she was preparing for her tennis team’s match when the same person approached her. She froze in fear and that was when he took her to the bathroom -- the one known to be used for sex -- forced her into a stall, and raped her, the suit said.
When he finished, he allegedly said “This is our little secret, you can’t and won’t tell anyone,” the lawsuit says.
Evans developed a ruptured ovarian cyst, which an OB/GYN attributed to the assault, the document reads.
The complaint alleges after Evans’ mom filed a police report, she emailed then-principal Mark Bosco to report the assault, but he never replied. The school’s vice principal, Tyson Jeffus, was in put in charge of Evans’ case.
“Jeffus took a defensive position immediately, and instead of offering [Evans] resources or commencing an immediate investigation per Title IX protocols, Jeffus actively dissuaded [Evans] from pursuing her claims,” the lawsuit said.
The accused attacker never faced any punishment, the document alleges.
“[The accused student] was never disciplined nor was he instructed to stay away from [Evans],” it reads. “In fact, MPHS did not do anything to protect [Evans] from further harassment and bullying from her peers as a result of the sexual assault becoming public knowledge on campus.”
Neither Evans nor her mother were ever informed of their rights under Title IX, and they were never updated on the status of the investigation even after they repeatedly asked, the lawsuit alleges.
Serena Evans finished the school year at home and was was treated for PTSD.
“[Evans] disclosed her sexual assault and harassment to MPHS administrators who failed to report the sexual assault to state or local authorities, failed to conduct any investigation, failed to do anything to stop the ongoing sexual assault and harassment, and failed to offer [Evans] sufficient accommodations based on the sexual harassment and assault she had reported,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit details the stories of several other students were were victims of sexual assault on CMS campuses, including several cases Channel 9 has covered. It mentions Myers Park graduate Nikki Wombwell, another student allegedly assaulted at Myers Park in 2015 and a Hawthorne Academy student, among others.
“Had MPHS and CMS conducted the careful investigation that was plainly warranted and taken appropriate action, these known instances of sexual assault could have been easily prevented,” the lawsuit reads.
Evans is asking for a jury trial and compensation.
Channel 9 reached out to CMS for a response to the lawsuit; a spokesperson said the district has no comment at this time.
Bosco was suspended as the principal in August 2021 after public backlash for how school officials handled claims of sexual assaults on campus. He later accepted a position as a senior administrator for the district.
Bosco’s attorney, Sally Higgins, said the district found “no basis to conclude that Mark Bosco mishandled or failed to respond to any allegation of sexual misconduct” and that he “can say that, to his knowledge, any situation at Myers Park involving an accusation or evidence of criminal conduct was immediately reported to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police, and CMS protocols regarding violations of its Code of Conduct were followed.”
(WATCH BELOW: Calls for change regarding CMS’ handling of sexual assault reports continue to grow)
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