Former McCallie School coach accused of sexually abusing students

Former McCallie School coach accused of sexually abusing students

April 25th, 2018 by Emmett Gienapp in Breaking News

McCallie School Sports Center

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

This story was updated April 25, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. with more information.

Officials at McCallie School are working to learn more about allegations that a former teacher sexually abused two students during their time at the school in the 1990s.

The accused teacher, Steve Carpenter, was employed by the all-boys private school from 1989-2000 and was the school's head basketball coach. He died in 2016.

An email distributed Wednesday by school administrators to the McCallie community stated the school has hired Fisher and Phillips LLP to represent the school and conduct a full review of Carpenter's time there. Fisher and Phillips is a large law firm that represents management in the areas of labor, employment, civil rights, employee benefits and immigration law.

Document: McCallie letter to the community

McCallie sent out a letter regarding the allegations of sexual abuse by former McCallie basketball coach Steve Carpenter.

Steve Carpenter is seen in this 2000 file photo.

Steve Carpenter is seen in this 2000 file...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

"We invite anyone who may have been sexually abused by Mr. Carpenter or by any McCallie faculty or staff — as well as anyone who has information regarding such abuse — to come forward," the email states. "The health, safety, and well-being of our students is our first priority as a school. Sexual abuse in any form is unacceptable. It is at odds with our values as a school and with the entire profession of education."

The email also states there will be a "comprehensive review" of the school's policies and practices as well as professional training for faculty and staff.

"While we know that the weeks ahead will be challenging for our community, it is important to go through this process together for the benefit of our past, current, and future students," the statement, signed by Headmaster A. Lee Burns, reads.

School spokesman Jay Mayfield said Wednesday morning that the allegations had been reported to the Tennessee Department of Children's Services.

Carpenter faced some legal trouble the year after he left McCallie — he was charged with assault and obstruction of a police officer after he reportedly struck a Whitfield County (Ga.) Sheriff's Department deputy.

According to department officials, Carpenter was attending a concert by the rock band Everclear at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center in Dalton when he became extremely intoxicated.

A local news outlet reported at the time that the deputy tried to help Carpenter when he fell out of a chair, but Carpenter swung at him before being wrestled to the ground. His blood-alcohol level was reported to be .366.

Another local outlet reported later that month that Carpenter was no longer the basketball coach at Ridgeland High School. Walker County Schools officials said the change was unrelated to Carpenter's arrest and that he had not completed his Georgia teaching certification as required.

In an incident unrelated to Carpenter, a former McCallie student activities director was accused of molesting an eighth-grader at the school in 1993. The student told authorities Jeffrey Barton fondled him on an overnight trip and he told his mother the next day.

The Times Free Press reported that Barton was suspended and eventually terminated, but he never faced criminal charges in connection with the alleged incident. He sued McCallie for wrongful termination, but reached a settlement and an agreement that the school would reply "no comment" if asked about the firing.

Two decades later, a student at a California military academy where Barton taught from 1997-2001 came forward with allegations that the teacher had abused him, prompting six more of Barton's former students from schools in three states to step up with similar accusations.

Barton faced two counts of sodomy as well as 14 counts of oral copulation by force. In 2017, a jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to 48 years in prison.

Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at egienapp@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.