Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district officials were notified by letter four days before Butler High School’s opening football game that a team member had been charged with rape, but they didn’t tell the school for more than a week.
On Monday, a school spokeswoman said the officials will streamline their notification process in the wake of the arrest of Osvaldo Sombo, 17, who played in the school’s Aug. 20 game despite the charges.
“They are looking at the process and how that is handled,” said CMS spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte. “I don’t think this was atypical,” she said of the length of time it took for Butler to learn of the charges.
The district needs to make more of an effort to rapidly notify high schools when students are charged with serious crimes, said at-large school board member Trent Merchant.
“Do we need to improve our communication? Yes,” he said. Merchant also questioned why CMS is still notified of arrests by letter when better technology is available.
Even so, officials should have made more of an effort to rapidly notify the school once they got the letter, he said.
Merchant said he’s been told officials were focused on notifying Butler before the Aug. 25 start of the academic school year – and didn’t account for the earlier start of athletics.
“Even with the antiquated system we have in place now, it seems like a greater sense of urgency is in order,” Merchant said.
Sombo transferred from East Mecklenburg High before the start of football season. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound all-conference player was expected to start at outside linebacker.
On Wednesday, Aug. 11, police arrested Sombo on a warrant charging him with two counts of rape and one count of sexual battery.
Stalberte said CMS central offices received a letter from the court system the following Monday, Aug. 16, notifying them he had been arrested and charged. School would not be in session for another nine days, but Butler’s first football game was scheduled for Friday, Aug. 20.
CMS regulations require that students charged with violent criminal offenses be transferred to Bank Street Alternative High School as soon as the school is notified of the charges. A review must be held within three to five school days, or “as close thereto as feasible” to determine the student’s appropriate school placement, according to the district’s policy.
Sombo recorded three sacks and seven tackles in the Butler’s 27-14 win over Mount Tabor High School, according to MaxPreps.com, a CBS website that tracks prep sports.
Stalberte said Butler wasn’t notified of Sombo’s arrest until shortly after the game, though she didn’t have the exact date.
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