Hamilton County School Superintendent Rick Smith and Ooltewah principal Jim Jarvis have woefully under-estimated the public’s rage, which has been steadily building since an Ooltewah basketball player was assaulted and raped by his own teammates before Christmas. The deplorable act took place on Tuesday, Dec. 22, but not until school resumes tomorrow following Christmas vacation will officials begin to have “meetings and discussions.” According to Smith. “I expect we will treat this as a very serious long-term suspension matter.”
The Hamilton County School Board will meet in an “emergency session” on Wednesday – this 16 days since the horror – but all that has been officially announced is that three players have been dismissed from the team and are suspended from school. The basketball team has continued to play since the freshman’s colon and bladder was ruptured by a pool stick, which actually broke in the victim’s bladder according to reports.
The public, staggered by such ruthless “hazing,” is both shocked and angered by the slow response by school officials and, in a Chattanoogan.com poll, a full 75 percent of those who responded indicated the team should not have been allowed to continue to play. A report by a Knoxville TV station indicated that two of the three players were not allowed bond and are still being jailed by Sevier County officials.
According to another report two other younger players were also injured but not as severely in the attacks that took place in the basement of a Gatlinburg cabin. Ooltewah was playing in a Christmas tournament and several chaperones accompanied coach Andre Montgomery and the team.
Ooltewah High athletic director Jesse Nayadley told Stephen Hargis of the Times Free Press that Montgomery did everything he could. "I have no reason to believe the coaches did anything wrong," said Nayadley, who has a freshman son on the team. "We've heard nothing that would give us any reason to look at coach Montgomery."
The rape victim required emergency surgery and, after eight days in the hospital, has been released but the pent-up rage has been building since the horrific bullying. Approximately $25,000 has been donated on the GoFundMe website for the victim and his single mother under the name of “Ooltewah basketball.”
On Saturday I thought my email was going to start blinking ‘tilt’ like some over-worked pin-ball machine as dozens voiced their displeasure over the situation. Allow me to give you a sampling of the public’s ire as I share these excerpts:
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“This whole Ooltewah thing has kept my stomach churning all week. I know a couple of people on staff at the school and they are horrified and, quite honestly, scared for some of the kids surrounding this incident. Concern for kids who were involved and ones who were not.
“Living here in the east side of Hamilton County where I go to church with a lot of Ooltewah families, I can say you are right on in your assessment about parents who are rethinking their children attending Ooltewah. At least two I am familiar with have been making calls all weekend, hoping to transfer their kids to Silverdale this week.
“Thugs is the proper term. Incompetence is a perfect description for the coach and, if they don’t move fast, (the same for) Jim Jarvis and Rick Smith. I think most are trying to figure out how the team wasn’t ordered home immediately rather than them staying and playing games up there!”
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(The story) “seriously gave me chills. I have been thinking about that kid every day. His life is forever changed.”
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“We're getting a lot of this nonsense concerning the Ooltewah heathens -- and, of course, many other situations as well. And too many people either can't or won't state it correctly.
“First, the phrase is 'presumed innocent until proven guilty,' and it applies only to the way the law (court -- judge and jury) is supposed to handle cases. Prosecutors are apparently and notoriously immune to that restriction.
“Nowhere is it written that we, the people whom the courts represent, have to pretend something didn't happen until it's proven in court that it did happen. Our personal rules of evidence and proof are much more lenient, and perhaps generally more accurate.
“Besides, in the overall scheme of things, the guilt or innocence of an individual is always a fact, whether or not the courts ever prove it one way or the other. Either he did it, or he did not; that's not a matter of either evidence or opinion.
“Here, for instance, it seems reasonable to accept the various doctors' statements that the boy was seriously damaged, deep inside. Then it's a simple matter of deciding for ourselves whether those unusual injuries were accidental, or were self-inflicted, or were deliberately done to him by one or more others. Is there any doubt about the outcome of that inquiry?
“From that point, it's reasonable -- mandatory! -- to determine who the perpetrators were and then punish them as the law requires/allows. And in this case, I have no sympathy or concern for their future reputations, prospects, well-being, earning capacity, etc. They are simply criminals, evidently bestial individuals who need to pay their 'debt to society.'
“Lock them up and throw away the keys. Put them all in the same cage, as far as I'm concerned, and see how that works out for them!”
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“Thanks for the article about Ooltewah. This incident is the straw that broke the camel’s back. I have a (relative) who teaches there. Student athletes have been running rough-shod for the last five years. I could tell you story after story. Trust me, much has been covered up for a very long time. One could write a book on one (name redacted) alone. It’s very, very sad.”
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As a lifelong resident of Chattanooga who went to public school I am outraged that this unthinkable act took place on a school-sponsored trip. My husband and I have raised two children who are now grown with young children of their own. I myself helped chaperone sport camps and trips and never did we have hazing incidents because we monitored these kids and knew what they were doing and where they were at all times.
The adults on this trip failed these children miserably. How in God's name does a coach with any conscious or decency let his team continue to participate in this tournament after what happened to this young man? I will never understand it. You cannot convince me that it was "only fair to the rest of the team" to let them continue. It appears to be a simple matter of coaches keeping it hushed so they could stay and keep playing. This story is total bull---.
I'm appalled that the Ooltewah coaches and parents that were in charge of this team let this happen. This should never ever happen to a child much less a child in the care of his school's coaches and administration. The School Board better get off their collective ----s and fire some people.
These boys that performed this heinous act should be tried as adults and serve their just punishment. I'm a hard-working, law-abiding citizen of this city and I keep my opinion to myself most of the time, but not this time. No way. I have two grandsons and I don't even want to think what my husband might have done if this had been done to one of them.
I don't always agree with you, Roy, or the TFP but I think we are all in agreement on this one. Punishment to the fullest extent is due here. My God, what is happening to our kids? Parents, it's time to step it up and take control of your children.
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AND THEN THERE IS THIS ONE …
“My wife and I were sitting back enjoying a peaceful Christmas Eve, when suddenly the quiet evening was shattered by about a dozen gun shots, followed by an accelerating engine. I was on the phone within seconds calling 911. Chattanooga police were here in no time. Gang members had shot up a duplex (in our neighborhood.)
“I talked to a policeman afterwards and pointed out how they shot up the upstairs bedroom window, including a bullet through the headboard. He said a woman was in the bed at the time. I assume it was the mother of the young man I saw Probation and Parole dropping off a few weeks ago. As we were talking, the policeman was picking up about eight 9mm shells lying (in the street.) He said ‘The folks in the house had no idea who did it.’ Yeah, right.
“The same place was shot up about four months ago. The duplex belongs to (redacted) who has an office in (redacted.) I called him after the first incident and he was very upset and said he had been thinking of tearing down the duplex. This whole thing has us preparing to move, since it is obvious this cancer is spreading from the neighborhoods that this has typically been limited to. Time to move to the country. Chattanooga is out of control.
“Neither of these incidents were ever reported in the press. I guess it is such commonplace that it is no longer news worthy. Police reports had to have been made.
“My point in writing … is that this has made me start to think. How is what is occurring in our city any different from Al-Qaeda or ISIS? The Crips and Bloods are nothing but terrorists being protected by the law. Due process and the courts have become just part of the game to these thugs.
“They have the neighborhoods gripped with fear of ‘snitches get stitches.’ Otherwise good, law-abiding citizens are afraid to talk to law enforcement for fear of reprisals. If this was a foreign country, we would have troops knocking down doors and dropping anyone with a gun.
“Why do we let these homegrown terrorists continue to thrive? Why is Chattanooga allowing its citizens to be terrorized by these American terrorists?”
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Maybe this week we’ll get some answers on a lot of things.