CHARLOTTE (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent Earnest Winston addressed a controversy for the first time Friday surrounding a decision to impose “consequences” on students who took part in a walkout at Olympic High School.
The protest and walkout, which happened a week prior, was in response to reports of sexual violence. In one case, a football player was accused of a felony sex offense and was allowed to play in at least one game while wearing an ankle monitor, and another case that happened on school grounds.
Several dozen students took part in the walkout, where they lined along Sandy Porter Road.
Sereniti Simpson, an Olympic High student who organized the walkout, said she was suspended for at least one game from the school’s volleyball team for the walkout. Simpson said five other girls on the team also faced a similar action.
“We strongly believe that students should have a voice and have their voices heard,” said Superintendent Winston, at an event at Olympic High on Friday.
“I want you to be inquisitive and have your voice heard, but do it in the appropriate way,” he added, referring to a protest at Olympic that was sanctioned by CMS that happened indoors on Friday.
District officials said earlier this week that the walkout, which was not sanctioned, was a safety hazard for students.
“Students who chose to walk out were informed they could face consequences due to such violations as unauthorized absence or endangering themselves and others,” CMS officials said in a statement.
“We were just demanding a safer environment for us and other students on other campuses. So to have backlash on us and suspension of games, it was just very shocking,” said Simpson.
WJZY cameras were covering Friday night football two weeks ago when a photojournalist noticed an ankle monitor on one of the players. WJZY learned through multiple sources that the player is the one at the center of some of the controversy that led to the walkout.
Winston’s remarks were made Friday at an event at Olympic High School. He said he couldn’t address specifics involving students because of privacy.
“I have a more comprehensive view of the circumstances,” said Winston.
However, Winston did indicate some decisions may be getting a second look.
Following protests last week, the district’s athletic director issued a statement that said, “Moving forward, any student athlete that is arrested or charged for a criminal offense will not be allowed to participate in athletics while the charges are pending.”
Winston was asked specifically about the decision to let the football player play at all.
While not addressing the matter in a specific fashion, Winton said, “Whenever incidents happen, it provides an opportunity to review and look at your policies, procedures and practices that are in place. So, this particular circumstance is no different.”