Almost a month after a jury ruled against her, a former Charlotte-Mecklenburg student is appealing her case to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The student claims the city and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools mishandled her report of a sexual assault near Myers Park High School in 2015.
The notice of appeal filed Thursday applies to trial court decisions stretching back to August 2022. Judge Robert Conrad ruled in favor of two individual defendants before the case headed to a trial. Conrad dismissed the city of Charlotte from the suit before sending the case to the jury.
After a weeklong trial, the jury ruled on Jan. 20 that CMS did not commit a federal Title IX violation in handling the sexual assault complaint. That means the school system would not have to pay damages to the former student, identified in court as Jane Doe. She had been seeking more than $1 million.
Court filings in the lawsuit allege that another student “grabbed and squeezed” Doe’s arm and pulled her toward the woods next to campus, despite her verbal protest. Doe then sent a series of texts, according to the complaint: “Help me,” “Guys, I’m being serious. I’m really scared.” “Mom, I’m being kidnapped. Call somebody.” After the texts, the fellow student raped Doe, according to the lawsuit.
“Ms. Doe suffered and continues to suffer injuries, including, without limitations, emotional distress, psychological trauma, and mortification,” according to the lawsuit. “The actions and inactions of defendants to discount Ms. Doe’s abduction and subsequent rape by a fellow student were driven by endemic and discriminatory sex-based stereotypes and gender biases held by officials at MPHS.”
The jury determined CMS was not “deliberately indifferent.” That’s one of four criteria courts use to determine whether a Title IX infraction occurred.
“We are grateful the jury reached their decision after hearing all of the evidence,” CMS responded in a statement.
Despite the trial court loss, Doe’s attorneys said she felt “vindicated,” according to a WSOC-TV report on the day of the verdict.
“[The jury] found that she was sexually harassed and that it was severe,” attorney Linda Bailey said. “Even at the end of the day, even with CMS not being held accountable, we still know that the jury believed her and that’s what she wanted from the start.”
There’s no word on a timeline for the 4th Circuit to consider the case.