In an update to the article UncoverDC (UDC) published a few weeks ago—it was revealed last week that there is a pending criminal investigation into an incident at Forsyth Technical Community College where a 14-year-old girl was subjected to a Lap Dance performed by a grown man dressed in drag (e.g., a "Drag Queen"). You can watch the explicit video here.
The revelation occurred during the monthly Winston-Salem/Forsyth County (NC) Board of Education meeting. Despite the incident initially taking place on March 22nd, the board and its members have remained nearly silent since media reports and video began to surface. And nothing was on the official agenda—circulated before the meeting—indicating the topic would be discussed despite the justifiable outrage from concerned parents.
However, the topic did come up in the middle of Superintendent Tricia McManus' update to the board. Towards the end of the Slide Deck presentation, McManus slipped in a mention that officials from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WC/FCS) and Forsyth Tech CC planned to meet and propose changes to the existing Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)—also called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)—between the two organizations.
"So we can make sure we are clear moving forward on all expectations for our high schoolers that are sitting on a college campus." ~WC/FCS Superintendent Tricia McManus
McManus said the proposed changes to the MOA would be presented to the board at the next monthly meeting on May 23rd.
Immediately after McManus' presentation, Board Member Steve Wood asked to be recognized to address the situation. Wood disclosed:
"This is still, today, that is under criminal investigation."
Wood also stated the pending criminal investigation was the reason for the board's near silence and seeming inaction to date. Wood invited WC/FCS Legal Counsel Dionne Jenkins to comment. Jenkins stated:
"I just wanted to confirm, yes. As of today, it was our understanding the [criminal investigation] was still open. However, I believe they are probably in the process of closing it out. I am just waiting on confirmation of that matter. So, I will make sure to update the board of that."
It was undoubtedly good news to those in attendance there was an ongoing criminal investigation. However, the board failed to address what prevented WC/FCS from taking administrative actions against employees involved in orchestrating the incident or stepping in to stop it.
It seems incomprehensible the school system is powerless to prevent employees—accused of wrongdoing—from working and interacting with students until law enforcement has completed an investigation. Yet, to date, there is no indication any employee has been put on administrative leave, fired, or otherwise disciplined due to WC/FCS's internal investigation. This may indicate there will be no serious consequences forthcoming for any WC/FCS employee who helped initiate, stood by, and cheered on the incident—only, potentially, for the drag queen that performed the act.
Also, the board failed to explain how simply updating existing policies would prevent similar incidents in the future since current policies were clearly violated and if no WC/FCS employees are ultimately held accountable. These points were made eloquently by concerned parent Cheryl Groves during public comment time towards the end of the meeting.
Notably, the WC/FCS Board of Education only allows speakers wishing to address official agenda items during the comment time during their official broadcast. Since the drag queen incident was not an official agenda item, no one wishing to address the incident was eligible to speak. The comment period, which is open to the public, on non-agenda items only occurs after the official broadcast is over—video clips courtesy of the "Children First WSFCS" Facebook group that live-streamed the public comment time.
Another concerned parent, Nikki Reed, called out WC/FCS for their failure to prevent or adequately address the incident in a more forceful and timely manner—as well as the shocking lack of judgment by all those involved. Reed also called out Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O'Neill—the county's lone Republican elected official—on his failure to act for over a month after the incident.
Before the board meeting began, a group demonstrated outside the WS/FCS Education Building. UDC was on-scene to cover the event and talk with the concerned parents.
The protest was organized by "Children First WSFCS" founder Ashley Wallace who—as Tracy Beanz detailed in UDC's original column about this story—was the recipient of veiled intimidation by a captain with the Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD). UDC caught up with Wallace and asked her about organizing events to protest the lap dance incident and the call with WSPD.
UncoverDC will continue to cover this story and keep you updated on further developments, including the outcome of the criminal investigation and actions by WC/FCS.
*This column has been updated to clarify eligible speakers during the comment time of the WS/FSC broadcast.