After several months of meetings, the Title IX Task Force has released its recommendations for changes that should be made within Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS).
The CMS board of education created the task force after Myers Park high school students held rallies and protests for several weeks. The students said that their claims of sexual assault and harassment were inappropriately handled by CMS administration.
What Were the Allegations?
A federal investigation predates what has come forward in recent months. The federal probe into CMS in 2017 found that the school district violated its Title IX obligations by not keeping adequate records about how it investigated a reported rape in 2015 at Myers Park High School. The school also never told the student who reported the assault that the case was closed after determining the sexual contact was consensual.
This report was made public in October of this year.
Who Were the Task Force Members?
CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston formed a team of 11 students, three CMS employees, and three outside community members to make recommendations about how CMS’s Title IX policies, procedures, and practices could effectively be implemented while still complying with Title IX. Title IX is a federal law that aims to protect against discrimination based on sex. As part of the law, schools must track, report, and investigate reports of sexual violence.
The task force met a total of six times over a 10-week period between Sep. 22 and Nov. 17.
The group was 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
- Identify preventive measures that may create a shift to a culture of deterrence across the district
What Were the Recommendations?
The task force broke up its report into two parts: first the recommendations from the student members, then those from the adults. There were more than 60 recommendations, the bulk of which came from the student members.
Recommendations by the students include the following:
- The curriculum on sexual harassment provided to students was insufficient and didn’t align with the real risks that students face.
- The curriculum should provide more information about physical, mental, and emotional trauma assault causes.
- The curriculum should incorporate information about risks associated with social media and the internet.
- Consent and dating violence should be explicitly addressed.
- Title IX training should begin as early as middle school.
- The school district should invest in more teacher training for consistent Title IX delivery.
- Institute a yearly “Title IX Safety Week.”
- Establish Title IX student organizations.
- Make available after-hours and onsite mental health support.
- Create a separate website exclusively for CMS Title IX including how to report an incident.
- Provide clear information about the next steps and whom to contact for follow-up after an incident is reported.
- Include Title IX training in teachers’ summer professional development.
Recommendations from the adult task force members include the following:
- Improve coordination between the school district and the criminal justice system.
- Students need to be heard and taken more seriously. A thorough understanding of adolescent thought patterns and behaviors is part of a trauma-informed approach.
- CMS should understand a complete overhaul of the Title IX curriculum.
- Instead of an unrealistic zero-tolerance approach to prevention and deterrence, a corrective experience approach would better serve students. School-based incidents that relate to or fall under Title IX could and should be looked at as learning opportunities for young minds still being shaped not only by their personal experiences and observations but also by their perceptions of how their behaviors are received.
- CMS should mandate an evidence-based, child abuse prevention curriculum in all elementary schools to increase awareness of abuse and enhance the protective capacities of students, caregivers, and school personnel.
The student-led committee did not provide recommendations regarding the investigative process.
What Are Next Steps?
In November, Superintendent Winston announced the school district will hire additional Title IX investigators to review student claims of sexual assault. The new hires will take on the responsibility of investigating student complaints, relieving school administrators of those responsibilities.
The school district made no other statements except that whatever recommendations are implemented will align with board policy, state and federal laws, and in compliance with guidelines from the Office of Civil Rights.
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