OOLTEWAH, Tenn. (WATE/AP) – The superintendent of Hamilton County Schools announced at a special called meeting Wednesday the rest of Ooltewah High School’s boys basketball season will be canceled after the alleged assault of a 15-year-old student while staying at a cabin in Gatlinburg.
Superintendent Rick Smith said he is “devastated and deeply concerned.” Board members said the situation is upsetting.
“I have laryngitis. I have been talking with constituents, concerned parents, and people probably 14-15 hours a day. I am not sick. I just have laryngitis. I have prayed. I have cried. I have been very concerned,” Steve Highlander, a Hamilton County school board member said.
Right before Christmas, members of the basketball team were at a tournament in Gatlinburg. Police said one of the boys on the team, a freshman, was sexually assaulted at a rental cabin off Laurel Mountain Road by other players.
Meanwhile, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that the aunt of the victim said three other teens were assaulted as well and that there is video of the attack. She said one of the men assaulting her nephew recorded the attack.
Two mothers told the paper their son’s were punched, kicked thrown to the ground and hit with pool cues, but returned home with no injuries. They said the beatings were done “on a regular basis in the locker room.”
An Ooltewah High School freshman was hospitalized on Dec. 22 while the school’s basketball team was at a tournament. Three of his basketball teammates were arrested and later charged with aggravated rape and aggravated assault.
“I’m very disgusted by it,” Miika Montgomery, a parent said.
Montgomery told WATE 6 On Your Side that she has a son on the team too. She said her 14-year-old was assaulted too, but not to the extent of her son’s teammate.
“I mean it’s heartbreaking to think that you send your son off to play in a basketball tournament and they’re being assaulted by their teammates. There’s no trust at all,” Montgomery said.
The boy had to be hospitalized at UT Medical Center and undergo surgery because of his injuries. Montgomery said it was all part of a hazing ritual by upperclassmen that went too far.
“That wasn’t hazing. They took it to another level. That was to victimize. That was to humiliate,” Montgomery said.
At Wednesday’s meeting, parents and students came looking for answers. Some were disappointed much wasn’t said.
“At the very end, my son said ‘so, we came and we know nothing.’ That’s what happened. They brought us here to tell us they have nothing to tell us,” Tiffany Rawls, another parent said.
Superintendent Smith revealed the investigation shows no wrongdoing by any adults so far. Both mothers agree that the coaches and chaperones shouldn’t be at fault either.
However, Montgomery said she’s hoping the three suspects are tried as adults and receive prison time.
“As a mother of a victim, yes I do because the act that was committed was very malicious,” Montgomery said.
The alleged rape victim’s family also released a statement saying they want everyone held accountable:
“In my opinion I don’t feel they’re moving fast enough. I understand it happened during their Christmas break but they could’ve held an emergency hearing to address our concerns regarding the safety of my grandson and the other students. I’m not satisfied with them just being kicked off the team or a long term suspension for the students involved. I want them expelled from the Hamilton County school system. Legal actions will be taken against all negligent parties.I want both coaches and the chaperones charged. The Athletic dept shutdown. I am just sick to my stomach about this whole situation.”
Superintendent Smith said the district will review all procedures and policies. The school system’s attorney mentioned they will specifically look at their anti-hazing policy and how students can report a problem.
A group of more than 120 Ooltewah High School alumni are asking for an outside authority to investigate the incident. WTVC reports the three players accused of sexually assaulting their teammate will not be returning to school.
Assistant Superintendent Lee McDade says an investigation into the assault is ongoing, and Ooltewah will handle the discipline in this case.
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office said anyone with information in the case should call (423) 209-7000.
The three suspects are expected to be in court on January 26.