Ooltewah rape investigation: Judge rules school board lawyers must turn over communications

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 2/15/16. Defendants appear before Judge Robert Philyaw during a preliminary hearing for the Ooltewah High School basketball coaches and the school's athletic director in Hamilton County Juvenile Court on February 15, 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.

Civil attorneys for the Ooltewah High School assault victims will soon get a deeper look into the Hamilton County Board of Education's thought process during the 2016 investigation into the school's sexual harassment culture.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Christopher Steger ruled Friday that school district attorneys must turn over the roughly 130 communications as soon as possible that involved lawyer Courtney Bullard as she worked on a public report detailing the hazing culture at Ooltewah's basketball program.

The ruling is a victory for the civil attorneys who believe the school district was ill-equipped to deal with sexual abuse and failed to protect two students who were attacked during the 2015 basketball tournament in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

But the issue likely isn't over: Though school board attorneys promised to follow Steger's ruling, they said some communications may fall outside of the order, including ones that deal with proposed revisions to hazing and bullying policies.