Three months after receiving reports about the attempted aggravated rape of a 15-year-old boy, the Grundy County (Tenn.) Schools system still has not launched a Title IX investigation, Director of Schools Jessie Kinsey said after Tuesday night's board meeting.
"Not that I'm aware of," she told the Times Free Press when asked if a Title IX — the federal law that dictates how institutions that receive federal funds respond to allegations of sexual misconduct — investigation was ongoing.
Five Grundy County High School students stand accused of attempting to rape a freshman teammate with the metal handle of a dust mop in the high school's field house on Oct. 11.
Under new Title IX guidelines 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, the office "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.
While it has yet to take on the Title IX investigation, the school system formed a committee — made up of two board members — shortly after the incident to supervise all internal investigations and report directly to the board of education to ensure transparency in the situation.
However, school board Chairwoman Phylis Lusk, who is on the committee, said she had no comment about internal investigations and said she had "no idea" whether a Title IX investigation was taking place. She said she and board member Chris Grooms, the second committee member, said they had turned over all information to the district's Title IX coordinators and those officials would deal with it.
Kinsey said she, too, was not aware of a Title IX investigation.
The events of Oct. 11 were described as "disturbing" by Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum.
That autumn morning at around 5 a.m., a group of high schoolers went to the high school's football field house to work out. It's unknown how the boys gained access, but the door was left unlocked or had been left open.
"After the workout, a couple of the individuals began wrestling around," Shrum said at a press conference. "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," he said.
"Another participant held the victim's legs while he and a third participant used a metal dust mop handle to assault the victim," Shrum said. "As this happened, another participant used a phone to record the incident."
Investigators retrieved the cellphone recording of the assault, in which the victim could clearly be heard shouting, "Stop, stop," he said.
Shrum said there were no adults present when the assault happened and none of the boys had permission to be in the field house at that hour.
Three days after the incident, then-head coach Sherman "Casey" Tate was "removed from any and all responsibilities related to the football program" and was prohibited from having contact with any of the football players. However, he remained a classroom teacher, and he can have contact with members of the football team if they are students in his classes.
Since then, school board members and school and county officials have remained silent about the incident. Many have refused to speak to the press, while others have agreed to speak but only off the record.
Community members also shy away from the press, claiming not to know anything about the case or any history of sexual misconduct at the schools.
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