More Ooltewah rape case stories
- Previously confidential Ooltewah rape settlement finally unveiled to Hamilton County school board members
- Mom alleges Ooltewah High School failed to protect her son after he was attacked in class
- State attorney: Insurer's settlement payments in Ooltewah High School sexual assault cases 'likely subject' to open records law
- Gardenhire blasts Hamilton County school board over confidential settlements in Ooltewah rape cases
- Second student in 2015 Ooltewah High School rape settles federal case
- Hamilton County Schools reaches confidential settlement with one Ooltewah rape victim
- Ooltewah rape case: School board agrees to negotiate settlement with victim
- Civil claims in Ooltewah rape case headed to trial
- Judge recuses himself from civil lawsuits linked to Ooltewah High School rape case
- Hamilton County Board of Education attorneys move for separate trials in Ooltewah rape civil lawsuits
- Greeson: More past mistakes mean more work for Hamilton County Schools leaders
- Federal judge rules against school board for 2nd time in Ooltewah rape civil suits
- Judge's ruling in Ooltewah rape civil cases puzzles some Hamilton County school board members
- Hamilton County Schools attorney denies swaying Ooltewah High School inquiry
- Attorneys for Ooltewah victims: Emails show district, investigator 'openly collaborating'
- Ooltewah rape investigation: Judge rules school board lawyers must turn over communications
- Attorneys for Ooltewah assault victims want to see private documents used to create report
- Judge dismisses perjury charges against Gatlinburg detective in Ooltewah rape case
- Attorney for former Ooltewah coaches wants to add more evidence to lawsuit
- School district agrees to turn over key investigative file in Ooltewah rape case
- Attorneys to argue whether private lawyer must turn over full Ooltewah investigative file
- Judge sets trial date for detective charged with perjury in Ooltewah High School rape case
- School district, former superintendent respond to Ooltewah rape case lawsuit
- Judge: State, county and school district must respond to ex-Ooltewah employees' lawsuit
- Ex-Ooltewah High staffers' lawsuit claims mistreatment in wake of rape case
- Three former Ooltewah High School employees file federal lawsuit over rape case fallout
- Analysis: Sex assaults in high school sports minimized as 'hazing'
- Appeals court upholds local judge's ruling in connection with Ooltewah High School rape case
- Gatlinburg detective facing charges in Ooltewah case continues to argue it should be dismissed
- Ooltewah rape case set for trial in 2018, judge tells attorneys this case is a 'priority'
- Date set for federal trial in Ooltewah High School rape case
- Former Ooltewah High School employees deny culture of hazing and abuse
- Lawmakers plan to rewrite child abuse reporting law following the Ooltewah High School rape case
- Ooltewah rape case: Hamilton County Schools argues it shouldn't be held liable in second federal lawsuit
- Lawmakers plan to rewrite child abuse reporting law following the Ooltewah High School rape case
- Gatlinburg police detective charged in connection with Ooltewah rape case will appeal judge's decision
- One year later: Ooltewah basketball
- Lawsuit filed in Ooltewah sexual assault claims Hamilton County Schools covered up abuse
- Judge dismisses charges against former Ooltewah High School basketball coach
- Judge to decide whether to dismiss charges against former coach in Ooltewah rape case
- Ooltewah High School rape case: Gatlinburg detective asks to appeal judge's decision allowing DA to prosecute
- Ex-Ooltewah employees join school board in denying liability in Gatlinburg rape
- Ooltewah rape case: School board files response, claims no responsibility
- Attorney asks for lawsuit from Ooltewah victim against school board be dismissed
- Judge allows DA to continue in perjury case against Gatlinburg detective
- District attorney to continue prosecuting Gatlinburg detective for perjury in Ooltewah rape case
- Former Ooltewah High School basketball coach hearing delayed
- Former Ooltewah athlete spending less than a year in custody for rape conviction
- Former Ooltewah students convicted of rape-related charges will be released this year
- Ooltewah investigation: Schools failed to address reports of abuse
- District attorney's report on Ooltewah High rape case criticizes school district
- Cooper: Ooltewah rape suit adds to board woes
- Attorneys representing victim of Ooltewah rape case file lawsuit
- Lawsuit filed in Ooltewah High School rape case names school board and school employees as defendants
- Former Ooltewah High School basketball coach appears in court
- Former Ooltewah basketball coach asks that charges be dismissed
- Victim lawsuit imminent after three teens convicted in Ooltewah rape case
- All three defendants in Ooltewah rape case found guilty, two receive reduced charges
- Judge in Ooltewah teammate rape case says he closed the trial to protect juvenile defendants
- Former Ooltewah High School students charged with assaulting teammate appear in court
- DA warns of problems if he's taken off Gatlinburg detective's perjury case
- Judge says he needs more time on decision to remove Pinkston from prosecution
- Sohn: Want to blame media for Ooltewah? Bring it on
- Cooper: 'A culture of hazing'
- Greeson: Hamilton County school leaders' transparency is welcomed, but more details needed from Ooltewah
- Report calls Ooltewah High School's hazing training 'deficient'
- District Attorney says there's no conflict of interest in his prosecution of Gatlinburg detective
- A 'culture of hazing' existed on Ooltewah High School basketball team
- Attorney says coach was singled out unfairly in Ooltewah High rape case
- Williams and Haymon named new Ooltewah boys' basketball coaches
- Gatlinburg detective wants Neal Pinkston disqualified from prosecuting his perjury case
- Two Ooltewah High School administrators not returning after rape incident
- Ooltewah coach, Gatlinburg detective plead not guilty in Ooltewah rape case
- Two plead not guilty in connection with Ooltewah High School rape case
- Ooltewah High School principal reassigned to new school
- Jim Jarvis replaced at Ooltewah High as principals shuffled at Hamilton County schools
- Three adults involved in Ooltewah rape case each face different outcome
- Hamilton County District Attorney drops charges against Ooltewah High School assistant basketball coach
- Detective charged with aggravated perjury could face harshest penalty in Ooltewah rape case
- Detective investigating Ooltewah rape to be charged with aggravated perjury
- Former Ooltewah coach Andre 'Tank' Montgomery could spend nearly a year in prison
- Ooltewah basketball coach faces criminal charges in connection with teammate rape
- Cooper: School board, public must work together
- Greeson: Court diversion aside, Ooltewah decision now on Kirk Kelly
- Ooltewah athletic director could return to job after deal
- Ooltewah athletic director strikes deal in rape case
- Cooper: Jill Levine hiring fuels intrigue
- Kirk Kelly names Jill Levine chief academic officer
- Sohn: It's school crunch time, and we have status quo
- Cooper: School board votes to march in place
- Hamilton County school board in disagreement over new interim superintendent
- Kirk Kelly named interim superintendent of Hamilton County Schools
- Sohn: All eyes on the school board as vote for interim superintendent nears
- Greeson: Picking a school leader
- Cooper: Schools chief should be dispassionate
- Hamilton County school board narrows search for interim superintendent to 3 finalists
- Veteran pair will manage Hamilton County schools for now
- Greeson: Nightmare for Ooltewah victims continues with wrong ruling
- Parents of victims in Ooltewah rape case upset suspect won't be tried as adult
- Gatlinburg detective files $300,000 defamation lawsuit against Neal Pinkston
- Accused Ooltewah rapist will be tried as a juvenile
- Ooltewah rape victim testifies as judge weighs fate of the accused
- Greeson: Smith's departure puts onus on school board to fix this
- Cooper: Smith's exit leaves clean slate
- Rick Smith quits after months of turmoil, revelation of scathing schools report
- Greeson: HCDE moving forward
- Clay Bennett cartoon: Rick Smith
- Hamilton County school board refocuses on schools, not scandals
- Adults charged in Ooltewah rape case turn themselves in for second time
- School board meets for first time since deciding not to buy out Rick Smith's contract
- Greeson: School board members let us down; Smith needs to go
- One Ooltewah rape case suspect may be tried as an adult
- Ooltewah substitute teacher and coach investigated for soliciting minor
- Rick Smith plans to remain schools superintendent through 2019
- Sohn: School board should stand for children
- Cooper: Resignation still an option for Rick Smith
- Greeson: School board buries heads in sand of insanity
- Superintendent Rick Smith to remain at helm of Hamilton County school system
- Decision looms today over superintendent's future
- Three new candidates apply on final day to become Hamilton County's interim superintendent
- Interim Hamilton schools chief candidate drops out of consideration, leaving one candidate
- Top national attorney hired to represent victim in Ooltewah rape case
- Could August re-election for four Hamilton County school board members impact decision on Rick Smith buyout?
- Smith: We are all Ooltewah Owls
- Gatlinburg police chief guarantees PD, city are taking allegations against detective seriously
- In wake of Ooltewah incident, former NFL star points to three lies boys are taught about masculinity
- Rick Smith's buyout plan riles Hamilton County school board members
- Gatlinburg detective defends testimony, district attorney responds, claims detective perjured himself
- Greeson: Rejecting rather than reporting student abuse our next job
- TBI investigating Gatlinburg police detective for perjury in Ooltewah rape case
- Detective's remarks in Ooltewah rape case fuel community outrage, calls for change
- Sohn: Ooltewah's perverted culture of 'horseplay'
- Cooper: Ooltewah must address its culture
- Chattanooga's police chief blasts Gatlinburg detective for Ooltewah rape testimony
- Ooltewah case moves forward: Detective says attack by students wasn't rape
- Greeson: Mistakes after Ooltewah nightmare magnify previous hazing indifference
- Wiedmer: Former NFL star Joe has manhood message for us all
- Judge sends Ooltewah school officials' charges to grand jury
- Judge renders decision in Ooltewah rape hearing
- School board eyes external audit of school culture in wake of Ooltewah rape case
- Oklahoma school district acted quickly, kept public informed in assault similar to Ooltewah rape
- Basketball players charged in Ooltewah rape case scheduled to appear in court
- Wanted: Interim superintendent to bring stability, leadership to Hamilton County schools
- Sohn: Change agent and schools savior wanted
- Ooltewah students post video to YouTube exemplifying positive qualities
- Ooltewah High School officials' attempt to get charges dismissed fails, judge denies motion
- School leaders will be called to testify in Ooltewah rape case
- Sohn: The silver lining in Ooltewah's school heartbreak
- Cooper: School board faces its own high-stakes test
- Wiedmer: Smith won't be the last adult out of a job from Ooltewah mess
- Rick Smith steps down in wake of Ooltewah High rape case
- School board votes to buy out Superintendent Rick Smith's contract
- Pressure mounting on school leaders in Ooltewah rape case
- Ooltewah athletic staff begin to fight charges against them
- School board, attorneys meet privately about Ooltewah rape case
- Greeson: Superintendent Smith, and the rest of us, must do better by our students
- School board meets behind closed doors, citing expected lawsuits over Ooltewah rape
- More details revealed about Ooltewah rape case; Two juvenile suspects approved for bond
- Cook: Crimes of silence in Ooltewah
- Greeson: Those at fault at Ooltewah should face scary timese
- A plea for change: Parents complain of bullying in schools; three adults face charges in rape case
- Wiedmer: Life just turned scary for adults in Ooltewah case
- Sohn: Let Ooltewah's darkest day be new dawn for schools
- Cooper: Hazing policy examination better late than never
- Parents claim harassment in Hamilton County schools has been happening for years
- Ooltewah coaches charged for failing to report sexual assault of four players
- School board member schedules panel discussion on Ooltewah assault
- Hamilton schools out of compliance with state law for hazing, bullying policy
- Greeson: Hamilton school board needs to rebuild trust after Ooltewah
- Ooltewah High School's basketball coach reassigned to textbook depository
- County officials break silence in Ooltewah sexual assault case
- Sohn: Finally, school officials choose to lead
- Wiedmer: Could Ooltewah situation become another Penn State?
- Ooltewah basketball coach reassigned based on new facts
- Sheriff Hammond doesn't rule out charges for adults involved in Ooltewah rape case
- Opposing coach says Ooltewah players threatened his team hours before alleged assault
- Petition demands Superintendent Rick Smith and Ooltewah Coach Tank Montgomery resign
- Smith: What Hamilton County Schools got wrong about Ooltewah
- Cook: Dominance, power and sports culture in Ooltewah
- New charges sought against former Ooltewah basketball players
- Court releases more details in Ooltewah rape case
- Aunt of Ooltewah victim starts petition, wants perpetrators charged as adults
- Sohn: School and county leaders must lead, not hide
- Cooper: Public needed reassusrance surrounding Ooltewah incident
- Greeson: School leaders, it's time to lead after Ooltewah mess
- Judge has not issued an official 'gag order' in Ooltewah rape case
- Ooltewah boys' basketball season cancellation affects other area schools
- Ooltewah High School basketball season canceled; school officials under gag order
- School board says no answers yet regarding Ooltewah assault case after meeting with legal counsel
- Ooltewah basketball season canceled, effective immediately
- Ooltewah students, community gather to pray for victim in assault, rape case
- After Ooltewah incident, Mayor Andy Berke announces plan to stop bullying
- Officials are staying quiet about Ooltewah basketball player rape case
- Greeson: Outrage at Ooltewah now calls for action
- Nerbun: Sports culture needs more character focus
- District attorney to investigate more Ooltewah High assault allegations
- Ooltewah High School's basketball game canceled
- Ooltewah grads urge school to have external investigation of 15-year-old student's rape, assault
- Attorney says Ooltewah coach being wrongly vilified in basketball player rape case
- Experts say soul-searching needed in wake of Ooltewah athlete rape case
- Sohn: Ooltewah High School basketball coaches should resign immediately
- Ooltewah rape victim may have warned basketball coaches of abuse
- Cooper: Nip hazing before it begins
- Greeson: Ooltewah attack leaves pain, questions and prayers for the victim
- Basketball players charged with rape of teammate won't be coming back to school
- Ooltewah students charged with rape, assault after teammate injured with pool cue
- Ooltewah High School basketball player undergoes surgery after being allegedly hazed by three teammates in Gatlinburg cabin
The rape of an Ooltewah High School freshman exposed fundamental flaws in how Hamilton County school leaders handle charges of abuse, bullying, hazing and other threatening behavior, according to a 23-page report released Thursday by Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston.
The school district failed to adequately train employees, supervise students and handle the situation, the report states. These mistakes were likely the result of systemic problems within the district, as school officials failed to take action on previous reports of abuse at numerous schools across the county before a freshman was raped with a pool cue during a basketball team trip, the report states.
The investigation, conducted jointly by Pinkston's office and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, found that neither Ooltewah High nor central office administrators acknowledged the seriousness of the attacks.
"Even after the basic outline of events became public, school administration seemed clueless," the report states. "When a mother of one of the victimized freshmen went to Ooltewah High School to withdraw him from the school, office personnel wanted to know why she was moving her child to another school."
The report calls on the Hamilton County Board of Education to "better understand and strengthen its responsibility to hold the system, in particular the superintendent, accountable for results," and calls the district's current accountability system "a failure."
Prior to the release of the report, a private investigation into Ooltewah High and a federal lawsuit filed against the board and former school employees also stated a culture of abuse existed at the school prior to the rape, and school employees were alerted and failed to take appropriate action to protect students.
School board chairman Steve Highlander, who represents Ooltewah, said Pinkston's report states a lot of things the board has already heard, but with a different "emphasis and tone." He said the board or school district has addressed several of the concerns in the report, naming changes to policy, increased training for employees and the development of a crisis management plan.
"We hate that the incident happened, and I hope and pray, like all board members, that this never happens again," Highlander said.
More than 100 people voiced concerns to investigators, almost all citing specific instances of being ignored by school district employees at all levels, according to the report. Pinkston office said the release of the report was delayed by the "continual stream of complaints" regarding the school system.
This investigation found reports of incidents leading to injuries and humiliation at numerous schools across the county, and reports detail a lack of response by administrators in most of the cases. Reports include:
- A Hixson High School coach making inappropriate comments to female players;
- A teacher at East Ridge High School being accused of statutory rape and remaining in the classroom;
- A teacher's jaw being broken by a student at Hixson Middle School;
- An Orchard Knob Middle School teacher being drugged by students.
And at Ooltewah High, hazing, bullying and threatening behavior are part of the school's culture, according to the report.
"The pervasive predatory attitude among athletes at Ooltewah High School still exists," the report states.
The report also criticizes school officials for not being open with the public after the rape.
"We are disturbed by the degree to which the school system has withheld information from its own Board and from parents and taxpayers," the report states. "[The Hamilton County Department of Education] has a duty to keep the public informed of every aspect of its operations, particularly whenever safety of students or personnel is jeopardized or violated."
Pinkston has not charged anyone resulting from this investigation, stating that in many cases the statute of limitations is expired or witnesses are unwilling to press charges. In February, Pinkston charged three adults with failure to report child sexual abuse in connection with the rape, and only the team's head coach, Andre "Tank" Montgomery, still faces charges.
The report details how four Ooltewah High School freshman were raped with pool-cues by older teammates during the basketball team's trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn., just days before Christmas to compete in a basketball tournament. The trip was not approved by the school board and a transportation plan was never submitted for the trip, as required by policy, the report states.
Three former Ooltewah High School students were convicted in connection with the rape of the player, who was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery following the attack, and are scheduled to be sentenced next month in Sevier County Juvenile Court.
Following the rape, Pinkston's report states, Montgomery's wife cleaned up the crime scene and threw away evidence. Montgomery also told the team "to keep quiet about the incident, to not even discuss what happened with their parents," the report states.
If the one boy had not received such severe injuries, the report assumes news of the attack would never have been made public. Even after news spread, former Superintendent Rick Smith and members of his staff failed to "acknowledge the seriousness of the attacks," the report states.
Pinkston strongly criticizes Smith in the report for his lack of response following the rape because he did not make an effort to assure the community steps were being taken to help prevent such an incident from happening again. He also says Smith did not contact parents of the victims or players on the trip, or have open communication with the hospitalized freshman.
"These are among the most basic responsibilities of a leader during a time of crisis and it is unacceptable that the man at the helm of Tennessee's fourth largest public school system failed in these fundamental duties," the report states.
Smith is not named as a defendant in the federal lawsuit filed against the school board and former Ooltewah High School Principal Jim Jarvis, the basketball team's volunteer assistant coach Karl Williams and Montgomery.
Smith, who resigned from his position in March, did not return a request for comment Thursday evening.
Though all three former Ooltewah employees are no longer at the school, the report says significant efforts have not been taken to educate athletes on the harmfulness of hazing or change the culture that allowed this behavior to take place at Ooltewah.
Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly, who was chosen by the board to replace Smith, released a statement Thursday stating significant changes have been made in the past six months. He said protecting the district's 43,000 students is his top priority.
Kelly said there are now stricter policies in place, stronger training for employees and a more comprehensive approach to crisis management and communications.
"However, the report may provide us an additional opportunity to enhance our practices, provide better support and safety for all students moving forward," he said in the statement.
Pinkston's report concludes by providing recommendations to the board and district leaders.
- Strengthening policies and penalties by establishing higher expectations for coaches, teachers, administrators and students concerning hazing, bullying, supervision, and establishing heftier penalties for failing to follow these policies.
- Increasing worthwhile training on the state's law stating that all adults are mandatory reporters of abuse.
- Better addressing bullying and providing support for students across the system to report abuse, and for adults to know how to recognize and handle these types of issues.
- Boosting the district's accountability system by developing a some sort of internal affairs department to help review potentially inappropriate activities within the system and report them to the superintendent and board without fear of retribution.
- The school board providing more aggressive oversight, and holding the superintendent
- Partnering with the Children's Advocacy Center, taking advantage of their violence prevention resources.
Contact staff writer Kendi A. Rainwater at 423-757-6592 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @kendi_and.