Ooltewah victim's family wants basketball season ended, coach suspended

Ooltewah victim's family wants basketball season ended, coach suspended

January 6th, 2016 by Kendi A. Rainwater in Local Regional News

Ooltewah High School head basketball coach Andrew "Tank" Montgomery has his hands full not only with his team but now with the rape and assault charges leveled at three of his now-dismissed players.

Ooltewah High School head basketball coach Andrew "Tank"...

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

POLL: Should Ooltewah's basketball season be ended?

Dozens of people pray in breakout groups Tuesday evening inside the worship center at Christway Church in Ooltewah.

Dozens of people pray in breakout groups Tuesday...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

People gather outside Christway Church in Ooltewah Tuesday evening before a prayer service brought to light by recent events involving the Ooltewah High School basketball team.

People gather outside Christway Church in Ooltewah ...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Family members of the Ooltewah freshman allegedly assaulted and raped by his basketball teammates say they want the school board to take action in tonight's public meeting.

The victim's aunt, speaking on behalf of the family, said they want to see Ooltewah's athletic director, coach and assistant coaches placed on administrative leave while the investigation is ongoing. 

The aunt will not be identified by the Times Free Press in order to protect the victim's identity.

"The season should end," the victim's aunt wrote Wednesday morning.  "And the family would like to know when the three boys will be expelled."

The Hamilton County Board of Education is scheduled to meet tonight in a private executive session with its attorney at 5:30 p.m.  Following this meeting, the board will publicly discuss any action it may take.

The school board is limited in what it can directly enforce, as it is not have authority over the investigation or personnel decisions.  But Superintendent Rick Smith is responsible to the school board.

The victim is currently at home following surgery recovering from a ruptured colon and bladder, and is limited in what he can do because of a colostomy bag and catheter, according to family members.  It is unclear at this point how long he will need both of these and if additional surgeries will be needed, the family said. 

The victim's aunt said the family also wants to see "the history of hazing" at the school addressed.

Investigators have been told by the victim that three other boys were abused and the "beatings" were something done "on a regular basis in the locker room," according to the aunt.  Investigators were also told a teammate video recorded the assault, the aunt said. 

She also said the victim described the beatings to investigators as a "ritual for freshmen" and not an isolated incident.

Three former Ooltewah High School basketball players have been charged with aggravated rape and aggravated assault in connection to the case. Officials from the school and the Hamilton County Department of Education have not been commenting on this case.

School Board member Rhonda Thurman has been vocal about ending the team's season immediately.  She said allowing the basketball team to continue playing sends the wrong message to other teams. 

"The message we've sent now is you can do anything you want and get away with it," Thurman previously told the Times Free Press.  "We had a young man almost die at the hands of his teammates and that seems pretty serious to me.  It makes you think, what does a team have to do to get their season cancelled?"

School board member Joe Galloway was formerly the basketball coach and athletic director at Lookout Valley Middle High.  He said over the decades he coached he took kids on many trips, and said he knows from experience how hard it can be to always know what is happening with the kids, even with plenty of chaperones.

He said while he coached he made sure each of his teams knew the high expectations he had for them, and if a problem happened he would first discuss it with the team and then discipline specific kids, if needed.

"Team culture was very important," Galloway said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Galloway said he didn't know enough of the facts about the case to say what action needs to be taken to address the situation at Ooltewah. 

Galloway said he doesn't want to punish innocent kids on the basketball team by ending the season if they were not involved in the assault and were unaware these actions were taking place.  

Galloway said he has confidence in Smith and his staff who have handled many cases of discipline over the years.  

"It's frustrating to other people, they think [administrators] are dragging their feet," Galloway said.  "But they are trying to do it right...they are working hard on this."

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.  Follow on twitter @kendi_and


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