CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For weeks, Myers Park high school students have held rallies and protests saying school administrators did not handle their claims of sexual assault and harassment appropriately. Now, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools board of education has taken notice, announcing a new awareness campaign.
As part of the awareness campaign, CMS will add new school posters noting how to report and list the school Title IX liaison on every school’s website.
“I feel like we need an honest conversation with our students," said Breana Fowler, a student advisor with CMS.
Fowler said educating students about sexual harassment is pivotal.
"A lot of our students don’t even realize that what he just did to you was wrong, or what she just did to you was wrong,” Fowler said.
The sentiment was echoed by former CMS student Joy Poe, who came to Tuesday night's board meeting in part to advocate for better education.
"Another reason I did not report my case is because I thought rape could only be committed if an adult hurt a child," Poe said. "Call me naïve, but I was 14 and I didn’t know any better.”
Forensic psychiatrist Carole Lieberman said Poe is not alone.
"One of the reasons why kids don’t report it is, first of all, they're not really sure that anything bad happened,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman said in other cases, some students may even feel social pressure to keep unwanted sexual advances to themselves.
"Girl students want to be liked by boys, so they might well give in to things that boys are asking them to do, which they don’t want to do,” Lieberman said.
Fowler said there should be an option that provides discretion.
"No student wants to say, 'I'm going to tell on someone for assault or rape,' so perhaps we can put discreet forms outside of the counselor’s office,” Fowler said.
Fowler also suggested a QR code outside of the counselor's office a student could scan.
CMS Title IX administrator Stephanie McKinney said students will be trained on sexual misconduct during the first weeks of school so they know how to recognize it.
“I think it’s just an ongoing learning, and an ongoing process of us making them aware of what that looks like," McKinney said.
McKinney said that education will be age-appropriate.
"In the lower grades, it might start out about the bathing suit areas and bullying, and by [the] time you get into the high school, you're having intense lessons about sexual harassment," McKinney said.