Protestors March On Myers Park High School, Demand Leaders Listen To Rape Victims
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Dozens of people protested at Myers Park High School Tuesday. The group, which was student-organized, carried signs, listened to speakers share their stories of sex assault, and marched. The goal, they say: to crank up pressure on Myers Park High School leaders, CMS board members, and others, who are accused of not doing enough to keep students safe from sexual assault on campus.
The protest was organized, in part, in response to the “coming out” of a now 22-year-old woman who sued the school principal, the school board, and others after she says they ignored her claims of on-campus rape by a fellow student, and discouraged her from taking action. “Jill Roe” was 15-years-old when she says she was raped in the woods on the high school’s campus. She recently settled her suit for $50,000, she says, in order to start sharing her story publicly. Her real name is Nikki Wombwell, and she was also one of the speaker’s at Tuesday’s protest.
So far, there has been no response from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board, or other school leaders, about the concerns raised by protesters.
The protest organizers tell WCCB they plane to also attend the next CMS Board Meeting on July 13.
Original Story (Posted June 16, 2021):
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The claims in the 35 page lawsuit are horrifying. The plaintiff, Jill Roe, is actually Nikki Wombwell, now 22-years-old. At just 15, Wombwell says a fellow Myers Park High School student messaged her that he brought a gun to school and would shoot himself if she didn’t go into the woods at school with him. She did. He raped her.
Wombwell told five adults at CMS, including school resource Officer Bradley Leak and Principal Mark Bosco. The lawsuit shows Leak reviewed multiple messages from the attacker to Jill Roe and told her she wasn’t raped. Bosco said he would talk with the boy about “how to treat a lady.” “Basically what I was told was that what I thought had happened hadn’t actually happened,” says Wombwell. Bosco also reportedly told Wombwell she would be punished for having sex on campus if the boy was found “innocent.”
She let it go, confused and embarrassed about what had happened. School officials never told her parents, and Wombwell was too scared to tell them herself. She says, “I didn’t even tell my parents it was a rape because I was explicitly told it wasn’t.”
Four years later, after she was attacked again in college, an older and stronger Wombwell decided to do something. She filed suit against the CMS Board, the principal, the school resource officer and others. The district settled. Wombwell got $50,000. She agreed to settle, she says, after realizing what she really wanted wasn’t money, but rather, a movement. And that is why she’s decided to reveal her identity. “Part of me coming forward with my real name is that I’m a real person, I’m not ‘Jill Roe,’ I’m a real person, I was a real 15-year-old girl who they hurt because they didn’t listen to me or believe me,” says Wombwell.
Last week, after news coverage of the settlement, the School Board posted a lengthy statement on its Facebook page that, in part, seemed to blame Wombwell for not taking legal action sooner. The statement was deleted from the Board’s page after it was widely criticized.
Only one Board member would speak with WCCB for this report, on the condition of anonymity. They tell us, “There are policies in place about how to handle this type of instance and others like bullying and harassment. I will be encouraging staff to make sure we do a thorough training on that policy with all school leadership prior to the start of the new school year.”
“Saying that they’re just gonna train, is not enough,” says Laura Dunn, Wombwell’s attorney. She continues, “The Board is really burying its head in the sand and wanting to stick with the court process, but there’s something much bigger here that they need to address. The Board needs to hold a public hearing. It’s time for them to hear from parents, from students.”
WCCB asked for comments from Principal Bosco, Superintendent Earnest Winston, and CMPD, on behalf of now-retired Officer Bradley Leak. Bosco told us to ask CMS’ Communications Department. The Comms Department told us to ask the School Board. CMPD said it’s forwarded our request to the appropriate member of department. And Earnest Winston never replied. WCCB News @ Ten anchor Morgan Fogarty asked Wombwell, “What message does their silence send to you?” She replied, “I want them to care, and their silence tells me that they don’t care.”
Wombwell’s attorney says anytime a minor has been harmed, they do have time after becoming an adult to bring claims on their own, and doing so is not uncommon. Wombwell’s claim fell within that time period.