Cooper: Ooltewah rape suit adds to board woes

The exterior of Ooltewah High School photographed on Sunday, January 31, 2016. (Staff file photo by Maura Friedman)

As if selecting a new superintendent and shepherding policies and strategies that will move students forward weren't enough, the Hamilton County Board of Education now must contend with a lawsuit from the alleged pool cue rape of a member of the Ooltewah High School basketball team in an incident in Gatlinburg, Tenn., last December.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Friday by the victim, identified as "John Doe," and his mother, "Jane Doe," calls for a jury trial, recovery set by a jury for damages as a result of the incident and punitive damages "in an amount sufficient to deter defendants from violating others' rights in the future and compel them to put a stop to this abuse once and for all."

The suit also names former Ooltewah High School Principal Jim Jarvis, then-Ooltewah head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery and then-Ooltewah athletics director Jesse Nayadley as defendants.

The complaint not only describes the incidents leading up to and involving the alleged rape but also describes the "long history of violent hazing, bullying, harassment and sexual assault of young male student-athletes."

The suit maintains that "defendants' failure to remediate this rampant abuse resulted in escalation of harassment, hazing and assaults of teammates."

Most of the incidents were described in the Times Free Press investigative report "Code of Silence," which was published last February, and in an external investigation prepared for the Board of Education by attorney Courtney Bullard.

Hamilton County Schools administrators already put in a new leadership team at the high school, and we want to believe that leadership team has made it clear that nothing similar ever will be tolerated at the school again.

It is a shame it took such an unthinkable incident - and now a lawsuit - to end what many have alleged has been a years-long culture of bullying and abuse at the school.