CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) – Questions still surround a decision from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to allow a student to play football — despite facing charges related to a reported sexual assault case and wearing an ankle monitor.
On Friday, the district said it, “did not make the right call,” without explicitly referring to the incident or the student in question.
However, the decision came after protests and a walkout that took place earlier that day by students, who highlighted sexual assault cases, including one incident that happened in September at the school.
Students who took part in the protest now say they are being punished for the protests, and the community reaction is intensifying.
“It’s almost like they’re trying to silence this group of youth that would be instrumental in changing things going forward,” said Melissa McAtee, a mentor to Olympic High students. McAtee said one of the students she mentors is a volleyball player who was suspended from a game for taking part in the walkout.
“Students that were inside were not allowed out,” said McAtee. “The students that were outside were not allowed back in. There were some students that passed food to those outside, and they received in-school suspension.”
A spokesperson for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said Monday that the issue, primarily, was not with the protest. They noted there was an opportunity to take part in an indoor demonstration. The spokesperson said once the walkout happened, it was a “safety hazard for students, staff and others in the area,” and noted that “students who chose to walk out were informed they could face consequences due to such violations as unauthorized absence or endangering themselves and others.”
Sereniti Simpson, a student volleyball player and the organizer for the protest, said she was suspended from playing Tuesday’s volleyball game against Berry Academy, along with several others, for their participation in the walkout.
“To get someone under investigation for a criminal offense to not be able to play, you have to protest, walk out, get media involved, all of this just to have one person not play,” said Simpson. “Yet, within hours, they made the decision to sit down six girls (on the volleyball team).”
On Wednesday, there was a media availability after a CMS event where Superintendent Earnest Winston was in attendance. Media were asked to keep questions limited to the reason for the availability, which was the renaming of Barringer Elementary into the Parker Academic Center. However, just before the superintendent was to come to speak to the media, he left.
A FOX 46 crew caught up with Winston in the parking lot as he was driving off, waving at them.
Repeated requests for an interview with the superintendent have so far gone unanswered.
Olympic High School’s Homecoming game is set for Friday.
When asked whether another protest was happening, either leading up to or during that game, Simpson said she wasn’t aware of anything, but noted, “I do see a protest happening, even if it’s people wearing the same color, coming with signs or something of that sort…because the community is outraged, as well.”