Ashbrook HS student forced to take online classes after speaking out about sex assaults

An Ashbrook High School freshman is forced to take online classes at home after she says she was sexually assaulted and then bullied for speaking up. 

"How does that make you feel?," asked FOX 46 reporter Matt Grant. 

"Sad," said Katlin Hoffman, 15, as she typed on her laptop on her bed. "I wish I could still go to Ashbrook but it's become such a hostile environment for me."

Last month, Katlin confronted the Gaston County School Board, telling them what she first told FOX 46. She said she was sexually assaulted, twice, on campus since the beginning of the school year and says Assistant Principal Melissa Knick told her to "toughen up" when told what happened. 

Knick has yet to respond to FOX 46's repeated requests for comment.

"The school doesn't do anything about it," said Katlin. "They think it's just a big joke."

RELATED: High school student says she's being bullied, harassed after speaking about sexual assaults 

A judge issued a restraining order against one teen for groping and threatening to kill her. Her family filed a police report against a different male student who Katlin says reached under her dress in math class and grabbed her.

Two other students who witnessed that incident confirm Katlin's account to FOX 46.

Since speaking out, Katlin says she has been bullied and sexually harassed at school. Now, she is taking online classes from the safety of her bedroom.

"Being in that environment was really unsafe," she said. "And not good for my mental health."

Gaston County school officials did not respond to FOX 46's requests for comment. Previously, School Board Chairman Kevin Collier pledged a full investigation into Katlin's allegations, which he has called "very disturbing," along with the way Ashbrook High School officials responded.

But that doesn't go far enough for the non-profit organization Stop Sexual Assault in Schools.

"That's a clear case of retaliation for reporting sexual harassment or sexual assault," said co-founder Joel Levin.

Levin says Ashbrook "absolutely" should have done more to make sure Katlin felt safe. He helped her file a Title IX complaint and calls her treatment a "clear violation" of the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex.

"It violates Title IX which protects students against sex discrimination," said Levin. "And sexual harassment and sexual assault can be a type of sex discrimination if it prevents a student from benefiting from the school's program just like any other student."

He says it could take 30 days for the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to decide if Katlin's complaint warrants a federal investigation. 

"They have to make accommodations for her," said Levin, who was upset to hear Katlin is now taking classes online at home. "They have to make sure that she feels safe and can attend school like any other student."

Since FOX 46's investigations aired, a website geared towards young women picked up the story. In the article, School Resource Officer Rodney Hamrick responded to claims he called Katlin a liar.

"When Mr. Hoffman was making false claims about a suspect I told him that was not true," Hamrick told the website. 

Meanwhile, Katlin wishes she was back at school, in her regular classes, with her friends and teachers. She tells FOX 46 she feels like she is the one being punished.

"I just want to know why they think it's OK to let these boys walk around and harass girls," said Katlin. 

The students she has accused of assaulting her have not been disciplined.

The Gaston County School District sent FOX 46 the following statement in response to our story. Officials say the statement was “inadvertently never sent” before the story aired. 

“Gaston County Schools is prohibited by state and federal law from discussing confidential student information. It is our policy to investigate each and every complaint involving student rights, safety and wellbeing. It is our highest goal to provide a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students. Gaston County Schools absolutely and categorically denies retaliating against any person for the exercise of his or her rights. There are a variety of resources available to students who have a properly documented need to temporarily limit their full time presence at school to continue pursuing their studies. Due to the confidential nature of student matters, opinions formed by persons outside the school system will necessarily be based on the limited information available to them.” –John Henning, Jr., attorney speaking on behalf of Gaston County Schools