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A CMS Title IX task force report is public after months of closed meetings

Nick De La Canal/WFAE
Throughout 2021 current and former CMS students protested for better implementation of Title IX in schools.

Last week Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston released a report from the Title IX task force. The task force was formed earlier this year in the wake of student protests around how the district has historically handled allegations of sexual assaults within CMS. WFAE’s Sarah Delia joins WFAE Morning Edition host David Boraks to discuss some of the recommendations.

BORAKS: So Sarah can you start off by giving us some context of this group — who was on this task force and what was its goal?

DELIA: The task force was made of 16 members, including 11 students and 5 adults. The students involved were either high school juniors or seniors. They met six times in person over the course of 10 weeks. And although this task force was made of students and adults — it was majority students and the report says the purpose of this task force was for students to create recommendations about how CMS's Title IX policies, procedures, and practices might be best implemented effectively while remaining in compliance with the legal requirements of Title IX. Specifically, students were asked to review existing curriculum, policies, and procedures. And the hope is that these recommendations from the task force will strengthen the enforcement of Title IX and eliminate any barriers students face when they attempt to report sexual harassment or assault.

BORAKS: OK so the findings are finally public, what are some of the highlights of the report?

DELIA: The report is 30 pages and that includes 63 recommendations — we’ve linked to the full report on our website wfae.org. Some of the common themes with the recommendations had to do with training. The word training is actually found 93 times in this document. And there are two types of training — the first is the Title IX training that students receive so they know and understand their rights. The task force called the current training materials insufficient and said more needs to be done to make sure everyone understands what happens after an incident is reported.

And then there’s teacher training. The task force said there needs to be more teacher training and stressed the importance of creating a schoolwide culture of trust with students.

The task force also recommended Title IX training be included in teachers’ summer professional development. And said that training needed to be trauma-informed — which is among many things, is an understanding and sensitivity to the fact that the group you are training or educating may have experienced first hand that particular trauma that you're talking about.

BORAKS: So training is important, what were some of the other highlights?

DELIA: I would say another major theme in the recommendations was around accessibility and accountability. The task force clearly wanted there to be more a more streamlined and clear way students can report sexual harassment or assault AND make sure students feel like the report didn’t fall through the cracks — for example providing clear information on who the best person is to follow up with after an incident is reported.

And the group also said it’s important for Title IX documents to be available in other languages besides English to make sure that they are accessible for everyone.

And then the task force wanted to make sure Title IX educational materials were gender-inclusive and that included males’ experiences with sexual assault and harassment and it also include same-sex dating and partner scenarios.

BORAKS: What did CMS Superintendent Winston have to say about the findings, did he say where we go from here?

DELIA: I sent an interview request explaining WFAE would like to sit down with Superintendent Winston to talk about the findings and to understand exactly what you just asked, David — now that the report has come out, where does the district go from here? I received an email back from a CMS spokesperson that said Winston "reviewed the report and that the district Title IX coordinator and staff are reviewing the recommendations and will determine next steps following this review. As next steps are determined, any changes recommended will align with Board policy, state and federal law, and will be made in compliance with guidelines from the Office of Civil Rights."

And the email also said he would not be available for an interview. Throughout our ongoing coverage around Title IX within CMS, we have put in multiple requests for a sit-down interview with Superintendent Winston, and he’s yet to take us up on the offer.

It's really important that this report was made public because reporters were not allowed to cover these meetings or attend them in any way. So it was really hard to get a sense of all of the work that's been done until this report was released.

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Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.
David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.