Student says Ashbrook High School administrators ignored sexual assault complaints

- This is part one of a two-part story. In part two, we talk with the chairman of the Gaston County School Board who says he is "disturbed" by Katlin's allegations and is calling for a full investigation in what happened, along with the school's response.

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A ninth grader at Ashbrook High School in Gaston County says she was sexually assaulted at school twice and school officials did nothing.

"My name is Katlin Hoffman and I am not only a student at Ashbrook High School," the 15-year-old told the school board last week, "but I am a sexual assault victim."

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Katlin says her complaints were not taken seriously and brushed aside.

"I feel like I can't speak up anymore. Like I'm being belittled," said Katlin, who is telling her story exclusively to FOX 46. "I feel like they don't care at all."

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

 In September 2017, Katlin says a student pushed her up against a locker and tried to kiss her.

"He's like 'kiss me' and got up really close and was trying to force me," she recalled. "And I kept saying 'no' and turning my head."

The incident resulted in a restraining order. A judge found the defendant "communicated threats...that he would kill her" and "touched...and...tried to kiss" Katlin "without consent."

The teen was ordered to not have contact with Katlin, but she says up until the end of February 2018, he was still in one of her classes. 

Katlin says the school's assistant principal, Melissa Knick, told her she "didn't believe" the teen would do that, she said. 

"[Knick said] that I need to learn how to defend myself," said Katlin. "That I'm in high school now."

Her father, Roland, says Knick told him the same thing. He says he was told "she needs to toughen up" and "she's in high school now."

According to Katlin, when she asked to move her locker away from the accused teen she had a restraining order against, the school fought her on it for more than a month before relenting. 

In October, she said she was assaulted a second time. This incident happened during math class by a different teen, she said. 

"The kid came up behind me and touched under my dress," Katlin recalled. "And I went immediately and yelled at him and told the teacher immediately what he did."

Katlin says the boy grabbed her vagina. She told the teacher but, again, it appears nothing was done. It is unclear if the teacher reported the incident to anyone, and he did not respond to a request for comment.

After the incident, Katlin says she was the one moved out of her favorite class. The accused student faced no punishment nor action at all, she said. 

FOX 46 spoke with two of Katlin's classmates. Both say they the assault happened.  Despite school policy requiring suspected sexual assaults be reported to police both students say they were never questioned by anyone. 

"She had on a dress that day so he went like under and tried to grab her," said her classmate Rohan Burnett, who says he witnessed what happened and agreed, with his mother's permission, to speak on the record. "And she made a loud noise like a scream."

 "Did you see a crime happen?," FOX 46's Matt Grant asked.

"Yes," said Rohan, who says he would testify in court.

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

 In December, Katlin says she was assaulted for a third time. Katlin says four boys - two she says she knew from school - forced their way into her sister's home, where she was staying, pulled off her pants and tried to rape her.

"They then followed me into my room and argued who was going to go first," said Katlin. "They continued to push down on me and I continued to say 'stop' and they wouldn't."

She says the attempted rape stopped when her sister's boyfriend came home. Brad Wolfe says the front door was locked and he saw four boys run out the back door.

"I seen Katlin kind of disheveled," said Wolfe. "Her clothes all messed up. She's pale, white, ghost, looking face. Right away I knew something was wrong, she was crying a little bit. You could see in her face she was scared."

Gastonia Police took a report alleging a "sex offense" took place. The redacted report recommended the case be "closed." Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell declined to press charges.

"I cannot comment because it involves juveniles," Bell said. 

Wolfe says police never even asked him, the only primary witness, what he saw. 

"They never came, interviewed me, or anything about the situation," said Wolfe. "I don't really understand why."

When FOX 46 started asking questions, a Gastonia police official said there are "better stories to cover."

Gastonia County Police Sgt. Brian Bolic, who is in charge of school resources officers for the county, said, dismissively: "I'm sure she [Katlin] had a lot to tell you."

"It's outrageous," said Katlin's father, Roland. 

On top of everything, he says the person in charge of keeping students safe, School Resource Officer Rodney Hamrick, outright told him he doesn't believe his daughter.

"He said she was too much drama," said Hoffman. "His exact words were that 'We're doing everything we can to get her [Katlin] out of the school and over to North Gaston [High School] because she's just too much drama."

Hamrick and the assistant principal, Knick, did not respond to FOX 46's requests for comment. A district spokesperson says "the safety of all students and employees is important to the school" but could not comment on allegations involving students. 

The district did, however, tell FOX 46 that "the school met with the parent several times and involved law enforcement, which is our procedure."

Hoffman and his daughter have now filed a police report about the incident that happened in her math class. 

FOX 46 put Katlin and her father in touch with Phoenix Counseling, a local group that specializes in sexual assault work and advocacy. They are now working with the family to find justice.  

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