For years, female students at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools have been groped, sexually assaulted and possibly even raped by other students. The result always seems to be the same. Before long, these predatory students are walking school halls again, despite convictions against them.
In 2008, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Peter Gorman made a big show of taking on bullying at school, particularly bullying against homosexuals. But when it comes to straight-up heterosexual assault, Gorman's record is shameful.
Earlier this month, WSOC TV reported that a 13-year-old girl was forced into a bathroom at James Martin Middle School and sexually assaulted by three boys who held her down and took turns fondling her.
"She said, 'I was screaming, but no one heard me,'" her mother told WSOCTV. One of the boys was arrested in connection with a similar assault on a bus in 2010, WSOC reported. At the time, school officials said he had been "disciplined" for the assault. But somehow, this kid is now free to roam the halls. The victim's mother is outraged that the attackers haven't been suspended while police investigate and continue to taunt her daughter at school.
This isn't the first time this has happened. Rewind to a story Creative Loafing broke in 2004. West Mecklenburg High School teachers were desperate to remove a registered sex offender (and 19-year-old freshman) from school. Incredibly, the student committed the crime for which he earned his sex offender status at school.
In April 2003, police arrested him for violently sexually assaulting a female student at North Mecklenburg High School. He took a plea deal in which he pled guilty to kidnapping and registered as a sex offender. He later turned up as a freshman at West Mecklenburg, where his discipline record included sexually harassing a school employee and threatening to violate a teacher with a baseball bat. Another teacher resigned because she feared him. School system administrators' first response was to threaten the teachers who went to CL with the story.
At the time, school board member Joe White wrote back to a West Meck teacher concerned about the sex offender. "Please keep in mind that our students, just like our teachers, have rights as well," White wrote in a letter that reminded her there is a "process and procedure" in place for such concerns.
In another incident in 2005, a 13-year-old honors student was repeatedly groped and sexually assaulted by two boys on the bus. In that case, CL obtained investigation records in which one of the boys admitted to doing exactly what the girl accused him of against her will. Despite this, no one was punished. The boys weren't even removed from the bus. Instead, school officials offered to allow the girl's parents to drive her to another bus stop half a mile further away from their home. When asked for comment by CL, school officials cited supposed privacy rules barring them from commenting on school discipline, despite the fact that the district had recently commented on three high-profile discipline cases in which a student brought a gun to school.
That's par for the course for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, where it seems the victim is always wrong — unless he or she is gay. And, who knows, maybe even then.
Stats from the school system's violence report, chronicled by Pundithouse.com, illustrate the problem. Acts of violence were up 75 percent last year, with 40 sexual assaults, 13 sexual offenses, 35 assaults resulting in serious injury and 12 assaults involving the use of a weapon. Yet just three students were expelled. Three.
Given CMS' history, the perpetrators of these assaults are no doubt back in school, roaming the halls unsupervised. In cases that I've profiled in the past, parents have removed victims from the school system for their safety and emotional well-being. With our schools increasingly impoverished, victims whose parents lack the resources to remove them are no doubt trapped in schools where they are forced daily to face their attackers and perhaps even repeat taunts and sexual abuse from them.
We'd ask this of no other female in our society. It's like something you'd expect to read about in a third-world country somewhere, but it's going on right here.