Ex-Ooltewah employees join school board in denying liability in Gatlinburg rape

Jim Jarvis, Allard Nayadley and Andre Montgomery place blame solely on three of the victim's basketball teammates

The exterior of Ooltewah High School photographed on Sunday, January 31, 2016. (Staff file photo by Maura Friedman)
photo Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 2/15/16. Ooltewah High School head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery looks into the crowd during a brief intermission from his preliminary hearing in Hamilton County Juvenile Court on February 25, 2016. Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston charged head coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery, assistant coach Karl Williams and Athletic Director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley with failing to report child abuse or suspected child sexual abuse in connection with the rape of an Ooltewah High School freshman by his basketball teammates Dec. 22, 2015.

Three former Ooltewah High School employees are claiming no responsibility for the pool-cue rape of a freshman basketball player in December 2015, saying three of the victim's teammates are solely to blame for the attack, according to federal court documents.

The victim's family filed a lawsuit in September against former Ooltewah High School Principal Jim Jarvis, the school's former Athletic Director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley and former head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery, claiming they knew abuse was taking place and failed to protect students.

But in the individuals' 30-page response, they admit no fault or negligence.

"These Defendants deny any liability to the Plaintiff," the response states.

The Hamilton County Board of Education is also named in the victim's lawsuit, to which the school board filed a response last week, also denying any responsibility in the case.

The lawsuit alleges a long and violent history of hazing and sexual abuse of male student athletes at the school, accusing district and school administrators and staff of knowing this pattern existed and failing to act.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff asks that a jury decide the amount of damages the victim is entitled to receive from each defendant.

The victim in this case is a former Ooltewah High School freshman who was raped by his basketball teammates with a pool cue during a team trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn. The victim, 15 at the time of the attack, suffered injuries so severe he was rushed to a hospital for emergency surgery.

Montgomery and Nayadley were attending the tournament in Gatlinburg at the time of the rape.

In the response, the three former Ooltewah High School employees state that "they acted as reasonably and prudent in furtherance of their discretionary duties."

Arthur Knight, an attorney from Knoxville, is representing the three individuals in this case, and attorney Charles Purcell, from Jackson, Tenn., is defending the school board.

The separate representation and responses could signal that both the board and the individuals named in the lawsuit will attempt to shift responsibility to the other in future court proceedings, though that has yet to occur in the court documents filed.

The response the individuals filed closely mirrors the school board's response, both groups claiming not to be liable for the attack. Both responses also claim that certain governmental immunities protect them from paying punitive damages in this case.

The lawsuit claims the school board failed to maintain adequate policies and training regarding student hazing and bullying. It also alleges the board did not adequately train employees about mandatory reporting of abuse, creating a climate in which such misconduct was tolerated and encouraged due to a lack of consequence.

The lawsuit continues to say that the board's failure to have the proper policies and training in place means it should not be protected by the state's Governmental Tort Liability Act, which protects governmental boards from lawsuits and limits the amount of damages that can be paid. Attorneys for the victim say the board failed to protect him, and that Jarvis, Nayadley and Montgomery's negligent actions provide legal grounds to remove each group's immunity.

If the court determines the board or individuals are liable and must pay damages, both parties say they will attempt to have the sum reduced under Tennessee's "modified comparative fault" law, according to the responses. This law allows the court to award damages based on the level of fault of each party involved in the case, meaning the board may attempt to shift a large percentage of the damages onto the individuals named in the lawsuit.

The individuals' response claims that if anyone should have been aware the three boys were going to commit the attack, it would have been their parents. The same argument was made by the school board.

Three former Ooltewah High School students have been convicted in connection with the pool-cue rape of the plaintiff. The oldest of the perpetrators, who turned 18 soon after the attack, was convicted of aggravated rape and aggravated assault in Sevier County Juvenile Court and will be released from juvenile detention in the coming weeks. The two other players, each 16 at the time of the attack, were convicted of aggravated assault and will be released soon.

Meanwhile, an independent investigation into the school's culture and district policies commissioned by the school board found that a "culture of hazing" and bullying existed on the high school's boys basketball team for months, and maybe even years, before the incident.

The attorneys representing the plaintiff are Douglas Fierberg and Monica Beck of the Fierberg National Law Group based in Washington, D.C., and Eddie Schmidt of Nashville.

Contact staff writer Kendi A. Rainwater at 423-757-6592 or krainwater@timesfreepress.com. Follow on Twitter @kendi_and.

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