BREAKING: Jury sides with CMS on Myers Park case
Weeklong trial ended late Friday after years of litigation
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Jury rejects claim from former Myers Park High student who said she was sexually assaulted in 2015; plantiff was seeking $1M in damages
by Cristina Bolling
A federal jury on Friday night sided with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools on a lawsuit filed by a former student who said she was sexually assaulted in 2015 by a fellow student.
The jury of 6 men and 2 women found that the plaintiff didn’t prove that CMS officials acted with “deliberate indifference” toward the plaintiff, known as “Jane Doe.” The plaintiff sat stoically in the courtroom as the verdict was read.
In a statement, a CMS spokesman said: “We are grateful the jury reached their decision after hearing all of the evidence.”
The plaintiff said in a news release Friday night: “Despite the verdict today, I am grateful that I was able to inspire change and speak up for the survivors. I am disappointed, but I know it's not the end.”
She had been seeking $1M in damages from CMS.
The verdict was the culmination of a trial that started Tuesday in the federal courthouse uptown.
The plaintiff alleged that Myers Park High school administrators, its school resource officer and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers failed to take her claims that she was sexually assaulted in a wooded area near campus seriously.
Court documents and testimony showed that she had left campus on the morning of Nov. 3, 2015, with a classmate known as “Q.W.,” with whom she had exchanged flirty and sexually graphic texts in the days before. But she testified that she didn’t want to leave campus with him, and she said he kidnapped her and led her to a muddy, wooded area near Park Road Shopping Center known as the “bamboo forest.” There, he forced her to perform oral sex on him, she said in testimony and in statements to a hospital nurse, friends and CMPD detectives on that day.
But it was clear that authorities were skeptical of her claim of being kidnapped and attacked, because they knew the two had discussed skipping school, and they didn’t seem to believe that force was used, which is a necessary element to prove a crime. Q.W. was never charged criminally.
The lawsuit alleged that CMS routinely minimized reports of sexual assaults and that CMPD botched its investigation and failed to properly supervise Myers Park High’s school resource officer. On Thursday, the judge dismissed CMPD and the city from the case, saying there was insufficient evidence to suggest that its actions met the legal threshold to be held liable. But he allowed the case against CMS to continue.
A former Myers Park High student known as “Jane Doe” (right) sued Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police in connection with what she described as a kidnapping and sexual assault in 2015. (Sketch by Jerry McJunkins)
Media coverage of the case in the spring and summer of 2021 led to additional young women at Myers Park and other CMS schools coming forward with reports of sexual violence. One federal lawsuit is still ongoing. CMS settled another one for $50,000.
CMS promised to examine how it handles reports of sexual assaults. It reassigned administrators from schools where there had been high-profile reports. And the district’s response to the issue was cited as a factor in the firing of Superintendent Earnest Winston last spring.
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Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Staff writer: Lindsey Banks; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Contributing photographer/videographer: Kevin Young, The 5 and 2 Project