Judge: State, county and school district must respond to ex-Ooltewah employees' lawsuit

Ooltewah High School Principal Jim Jarvis testifies in a hearing for coaches and administrators charged with failing to report child abuse or suspected child abuse.

A federal judge has ordered officials from the state, county and school district to respond to the lawsuit filed against them Monday by three former Ooltewah High School employees in connection with the school's 2015 pool-cue rape case.

Former Ooltewah High School Principal Jim Jarvis, the school's former athletic director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley and former head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery - along with each of their wives - filed a 33-page federal lawsuit against the Hamilton County Department of Education, Tennessee Department of Children's Services, Hamilton County, the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office, Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston and former Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith.

The lawsuit alleges negligence, age and race discrimination, wrongful termination, defamation, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty in connection with the rape case.

Federal Court Judge Leon Jordan filed court summons Wednesday for Pinkston, Smith and representatives for the school district, DCS, and county, ordering each party to respond to the lawsuit within 21 days. Leon also ordered that the group meet before filing any motions to dismiss the case, and said it's unlikely the court will allow entire documents to be sealed from the public.

In the lawsuit, each of the three former Ooltewah employees ask for more than $2.5 million in damages, and their wives each ask for $100,000 in damages for loss of consortium.

In December 2015, an Ooltewah High School freshman 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.

The victim filed a federal lawsuit against Jarvis, Nayadley and Montgomery, including the Hamilton County Board of Education, late last year in connection with the attack. The lawsuits claim that Hamilton County Schools and the three men ignored signs of abuse and allowed a culture of bullying and sexual assault to fester at the school, leaving students unprotected.

The three former Ooltewah employees responded to both suits last year, claiming they should not be held liable for the assaults, placing the blame solely on the students who were convicted in connection with the attack.

The cases are moving toward trial next year, and the Hamilton County school board's insurance company has been footing the bill for Jarvis, Nayadley and Montgomery's representation in those cases. But it's unclear if that representation will continue now that local attorney Curtis Bowe has filed this lawsuit on behalf of the three men, because it names Hamilton County Schools as a defendant.

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