“I should have felt safe at Myers Park High School and I did not.” - former student.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in Charlotte, North Carolina is learning the hard way why Title IX policies and procedures should be firmly in place. After months of student and parent complaints about the school’s responses to sexual assault claims, two lawsuits, and a principal suspension, a Title IX task force released their report. The task force was comprised of both students and adults and the report outlined 63 recommendations.
Among the recommendations was changing the school districts' procedures to align with Title IX requirements. There were several areas that CMS allegedly failed in that can be helpful lessons for other schools and school districts:
Keep Proper Documentation and Record Keeping. When the local news station WBTV was asking for reports of sexual abuse the school district had a hard time locating some of the past reporting documents. Record keeping is crucial not only for the initial investigation but also for any follow-up in the future (including possible lawsuits). The 2020 Title IX regulations require records of all investigations to be kept for 7 years. Because many sexual misconduct claims are brought forward decades after the abuse, we recommend having a system in place to keep records indefinitely.
Reporters must be free from retaliation. One of the claims against CMS is that they repeatedly punished students who reported a sexual assault. In order for reports of sexual harassment and abuse to occur, victims and reporters must trust they won’t also be penalized. The 2020 Title IX regulations require supportive measures to be in place to prevent retaliation and a prompt response to retaliation when it does occur.
All staff members must understand how Title IX proceedings work. Based on some emails, allegedly there was confusion among some staff members about how Title IX reports were investigated and recorded. It’s vital that all staff members know how concerns and complaints of sexual harassment and abuse are handled. Title IX regulations require 8-hours of training for your designated leaders and awareness training for your school employees. McGrath Training Solutions offers Title IX training to help keep your school district compliant.
Victims must be included in the investigation. Another allegation against CMS is that they didn’t include sexual assault victims in the investigation and they didn’t notify them of the investigation outcomes. The 2020 Title IX regulations require all parties to be informed about the procedures in an investigation and all parties should be provided written notice of the investigation and have a chance to review the investigation report.
These allegations and the fallout because of them have taken up almost the entire school year for CMS. In addition to failing to make their students feel safe, they also are facing multiple lawsuits and leadership dismissals. Don’t let this happen to your schools.
Take time to proactively protect yourself, your schools, your staff, and your students. Review your policies and procedures and implement training and systems for a prompt, thorough response to ALL concerns and complaints.