Demonstration against sexual assault of students after rape case at Olympic high school

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Students walked out of classrooms and staged a large protest at the Olympic High School on Friday, calling for more to be done to protect students after another student reported being raped.

A 15-year-old boy was charged with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl at Olympic High School on September 13, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said. The student is charged with attempted second-degree rape, second-degree kidnapping and assault and battery.

The teens knew each other, police said in a statement to the Observer.

During Friday’s protest and on social media over the past week, several students and parents raised concerns about other possible cases of violence at the Southwest Charlotte School. Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District officials have provided little information on other recent allegations.

Much of Friday’s protest centered on college students claiming a football player was seen in a game wearing something on his ankle – possibly an electronic monitoring device – which led to a response on Friday. from the sports director of CMS. It is not known what the student-athlete was accused of.

Speaking at the school on Friday afternoon, CMS Sports Director Ericia Turner appeared to suggest that a student-athlete under criminal investigation had been cleared to participate in a sporting event in the past. last week. Instead of answering questions, Turner made a brief statement to press cameras..

“We did not make the right choice,” said Turner, who announced that “in the future” any student athlete arrested or charged with a criminal offense would be barred from playing while charges are pending. .

“We will make it clear to our coaches and athletic directors that we must meet standards aligned with our student code of conduct,” she said.

In addition to at least one rape case investigated, CMPD files show one Olympic student charged with common assault on another student and two adult men in one incident September 22.

Demonstration at the Olympic high school

Friday’s Olympic high school boycott, as one leaflet described it, took place for the “safety of women in our school”, and many believe the school is “not taking these allegations seriously.”

Initially, the students planned to stay home on Friday, but ended up staging a large protest outside, shortly after a school assembly where student safety was discussed.

Sereniti Simpson, 18, stood along the road outside the Olympic High School, shouting at her peers that she wanted the faculty and administration to ‘stop talking and take action’ after reports of sexual assault against students.

“It means so much to see that there is power when we come together,” said Simpson, who helped organize the protest. “All these students need to come here to express their opinions so that they can finally listen. I’m glad they’re here, but it’s crazy that we have to go so far to be listened to.

Several CMPD officers were at the scene and patrol vehicles at one point blocked the entry and exit of school vehicles on Sandy Porter Road. The crowd at 10:30 a.m. was estimated to be around 150, but the students told the Observer that at one point there had been as many as 500 student protesters. A student was handcuffed for throwing a gold earring, according to the students. A video taken by students showed a policeman pulling the student away from the crowd.

Principal Casey Jones sent a message to families informing them of a “peaceful student protest” that was being planned with the school’s student leaders and administrators.

“In the end, some of our students made the decision to go on an unauthorized outing to speak to the media and continue to protest,” Jones said. “The administration is monitoring the situation and taking all safety precautions. “

At noon, the demonstration was still in progress and the participants moved to the shoulder of the road. Everywhere, trucks and cars honked in solidarity with the demonstrating students.

“Take us more seriously”

Along with two other female students, Simpson said she helped plan the protest after Jones called off a protest scheduled for Monday.

“It’s frustrating, you don’t reschedule a protest,” Simpson said. “We’re here today because we’re not going to let them silence our voices anymore.”

An assembly that took place before Friday’s protest was not enough to stop them from protesting, Simpson said.

“I think (staff and faculty) should take us more seriously and listen to our voices,” she said. “They need to listen, they don’t listen, and that’s the biggest problem right now. They really need to take action to make the girls feel safer on campus. “

Girls on the Olympic campus are not safe, Simpson said. It’s not just at his school. She said girls from other CMS schools face the same problem and are not safe from sexual assault on their campuses.

The arrest of the 15-year-old student two weeks ago immediately set off an alarm throughout the school.

“As you walk around campus, you’re scared, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Simpson said. “If a girl can be sexually assaulted in the bathroom, what are we supposed to do, hold back our pee?” It’s scary, and it’s our reality.

14-year-old Caryna Cozaya said she filed a Title IX report on Thursday because a student in her class made sexual remarks towards her.

“It was honestly dehumanizing,” she said.

The student reports of the shelved sexual assault are irritating, Cozaya said.

“We are children, we are not adults, we are students,” she said. “So many of us in the stands cry (in the assembly) because no one would take the initiative.

Cozaya and Hajjah Harrison, 16, said their school tried to silence them by telling them to go back to class and “represent the school appropriately.”

“We cannot represent a school that allows rape and allows students to still be here,” Cozaya said.

The three students ask for help from the community to get to future football matches and protest against their school.

“We only have the other,” Cozaya said. “We need you to be with us. If our manager doesn’t do anything about it, and the administrative staff won’t do anything about it, then who is left? It’s just us.

Simpson has spoken with his mother and other members of the community and they want to come to the games, she said.

“We’re teens who come together because we know it’s wrong,” Simpson said. “We need the support of parents, community, friends and family because we can’t do it alone. We need voices to be heard across city and state. We are on the action! We want something to be done now!

CMS Title IX issues

The report on sexual violence at the Olympics comes about a month after CMS said it would strengthen anti-harassment training for both staff and student body, and create a working group to examine how reports sexual misconduct by students is being treated, the Observer previously reported.

The working group, which includes students, met for the first time last month. Title IX training for teachers and staff took place before the start of school, and training for students also took place. Title IX link information is now also prominently displayed on each school’s website.

Title IX is a federal civil rights law that gives students the right to an education free from sexual harassment. The regulations require schools to inform students of their rights and make it clear how to file a Title IX complaint.

The changes come as CMS leaders have come under fire for the district’s response to issues at Myers Park High School, where former students have sued over sexual assault on campus, and others organized protests against alleged violations of Title IX, the Observer previously reported.

The two women said they were sexually assaulted in the woods adjacent to Myers Park High School in 2014 and 2015. The school principal was put on paid leave this summer as an investigation began to find out whether the Myers Park administrators discouraged female students from making official reports on sexual violence. .

This story was originally published October 1, 2021 10:22 a.m.

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Jonathan Limehouse is a breaking news reporter covering all major events in the Charlotte area. He has covered a litany of other rhythms in public safety, education, public health, and sports. He is proud to be a graduate of UNC Charlotte and a native of Raleigh.


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