Grundy County, Tenn., school board meets after cold weather canceled first meeting of 2018 [document]

Grundy County, Tenn., school board meets after cold weather canceled first meeting of 2018 [document]

January 23rd, 2018 by Rosana Hughes in Breaking News

After having postponed its meeting last week due to severe winter weather, the Grundy County, Tenn., school board will be meeting this evening and are expected to discuss the hiring of a a new high school football coach.

Grundy County Schools received heightened media attention after an attempted aggravated rape on school property on Oct. 11. Five high school students stand accused of attempting to rape their 15-year-old freshman teammate with the metal handle of a dust mop in the high school's field house.

In January, board members asked Director of Schools Jessie Kinsey to narrow the applicant list down to three and return for discussions about salary. Kinsey said she would have that done by the January board meeting.

Other agenda items include attorney's recommendation for handbook changes and school safety concerns.

It's not clear what those items will cover, and Kinsey did not immediately return a request for comment ahead of the meeting. But what they may deal with include some changes that were made to the schools' handbooks last month regarding its zero tolerance policy and concerns for school safety that were brought on after school resource officer's access to retrieve security camera footage without permission was revoked.

Document: Grundy County January School Board Agenda

The January 2018 agenda for the Grundy County School Board meeting.

On Oct. 11, a group of high schoolers went to the field house at 5 a.m. that day to work out. It's unknown how the boys gained access, but the door was left unlocked or blocked open. 

At the time, Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum described the incident as "disturbing."

"After the workout, a couple of the individuals began wrestling around," he said. "At some point, one of these participants, by their own admission, grabbed a dust mop with a metal handle and began tapping on the leg and the back of the victim. He then passed the dust mop to another individual.

"It was then that the victim was placed prostrate on the floor with his arms pulled behind his back. His shorts were pulled down and the knee of one of the participants was placed across the back of the neck of the victim as this occurred," Shrum said.

"Another participant held the victim's legs while he and a third participant used a metal dust mop handle to assault the victim," he said. "As this happened, another participant used a phone to record the incident."

Investigators retrieved the cell phone recording of the assault, in which the victim could clearly be heard shouting, "Stop, stop," Shrum said.

Shrum said there were no adults present when the assault happened and none of the boys should have had permission to be in the field house at that hour.

Since then, school board members and school and county officials have remained silent about the incident. Many have either refused to speak to the press, hang up immediately when called or pretend to be other people. Only a couple have agreed to speak, but only off the record.

A committee — made up of two board members — was formed shortly after the incident to supervise all internal investigations and report directly to the board of education to ensure transparency in the situation.

However, it's not clear where that investigation stands or if it is still ongoing. Under new Title IX guidelines — the federal law that dictates how institutions that receive federal funds respond to sexual misconduct — put in place in September, 2017, there is no fixed timeframe for what constitutes a "prompt" Title IX investigation.

Previously, the Office for Civil Rights specified a 60-day timeframe for investigations to take place. Now, however, "OCR will evaluate a school's good faith effort to conduct a fair, impartial investigation in a timely manner designed to provide all parties with resolution," according to the United States Department of Education.

Follow along on Twitter @HughesRosana for live updates during the 6 p.m. CST board meeting.

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas.


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