Gaston School Board investigating after student says sexual assault complaints were ignored

- This is part two of a two-part story. In part one, we hear Kaitlin's accusations and how the school, student resource officer and local authorities initially responded to her sexual assault complaints.  

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The Gaston County School District is investigating a student's allegations that her sexual assault complaints at Ashbrook High School were ignored, according to the superintendent.

The story was first reported by FOX 46 Wednesday.

"[Board Chairman Kevin Collier] expressed his concerns to me and reiterated the significance of a review of the situation," said Superintendent W. Jeffrey Booker. "This is being done as staff at the school and district levels have met with the family and will continue to do so."

Katlin Hoffman, 15, says she was sexually assaulted twice at school. Despite the moment of the #MeToo movement, she says her complaints were ignored.

RELATED: Student says Ashbrook High School administrators ignored sexual assault complaints

So she went directly to the Gaston County School Board where its mission that "every student has the opportunity to learn a safe school environment" is written on the wall. 

"My name is Katlin Hoffman and I am not only a student at Ashbrook High School but I am a sexual assault victim," she started by telling the board. "I walk through those doors every day expecting to be safe. But never once was I."

Katlin says when she reported her allegations she was told she was "causing too much drama."

"I was told I was causing too much drama," she told the board. "That they'll sign a waiver to send me to any school I want and to let this go. But I'm not just fighting for myself anymore. I'm fighting for the ones that don't have a voice."

After the meeting Superintendent Booker walked away when asked what he thought of Katlin's complaints. 

Board chairman Kevin Collier said he was "disturbed" and called for an immediate investigation into her allegations and the way the school handled the situation.

"It was very disturbing to hear the allegations," said Collier. "We will have a proper investigation from our staff and working with the police into this matter."

While Katlin said she felt "dismissed by the very people set to help and protect" her, FOX 46 found someone who is willing to help. Sexual assault advocate Erica Wright with the non-profit crisis center Phoenix Counseling in Gastonia is now working with Katlin to find justice.

"I wanted to get involved because I heard injustice," said Wright. "This case definitely sounds like it hasn't been handled appropriately. Not now. Not from the get go."

Wright says too often accusers are treated like they're criminals.

"We all need to do a better job believing the people who come forward," said Wright. "Whether it's family members or friends we do need to do them a better justice by believing them when they come forward."

Last November, a judge sided with Katlin and issued a restraining order against a teen after the first on campus incident. A a student threw her against a locker, tried to kiss her and threatened "he would kill her," according to Katlin and the restraining order.

Assistant Principal Melissa Knick dismissed the incident and told Katlin "that I need to defend myself," she said. "That I'm in high school now."

In October, Katlin told her math teacher that a student reached under her dress and molested her. Afterwards, she was the one moved to a different class and nothing happened to the teen she says touched her, Katlin said. 

FOX 46 spoke with two classmates who witnessed what happened and back up Katlin's account. Both students say they were never questioned by police or school officials, raising questions about how thoroughly Katlin's allegation was investigated.

"I think she had on a dress that day so he [the accused student] went under and like tried to grab her," said Rohan Burnett, a freshman at Ashbrook who was in Katlin's math class. "And she made a loud noise like a scream...she started crying."

"I was like, 'What is wrong with you?'," he said. "I seen a lot of things but I ain't seen anybody just come up and grab somebody like that."

Rohan says what he witnessed was a crime and is willing to testify in court.

This week, Katlin and her father filed a report with Gastonia County Police. 

None of the other school board members wanted to comment. In a follow-up email, the superintendent said the district takes student safety seriously.

"It is our intent to work with the family, hear their concerns and ensure that the she school environment is safe for all students."

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