Rest Of Season Called Off For Ooltewah High Boys Basketball Due To Rape Investigation; Smith Says No Wrongdoing Found On Part Of Any Adult, Raps Media; Case Featured On Today Show

Thursday, January 7, 2016

County School Supt. Rick Smith said Wednesday night that the rest of the season for the Ooltewah High School basketball team has been canceled due to the ongoing rape investigation.

He said it was necessary to aid the investigation of aggravated rape charges against three team members against a 15-year-old teammate.

Supt. Smith said there had been no wrongdoing found against any adult in the case.

He said, "We are all devastated and deeply concerned" about the incident that occurred at a rental cabin in Gatlinburg while the team was in Sevier County for a tournament.

He said steps were being taken "to see that nothing like this ever happens again."

The Ooltewah season cancellation was a lead story on NBC"s Today Show on Thursday morning.

Supt. Smith read his statement at the start of a specially called school board meeting, and board chairman Jonathan Welch read a statement at the end of the meeting.

Chairman Welch said the board shared the frustration of the public about how the matter had been handled. He said the board has no ability to take action against any personnel, saying, "That lies with the superintendent."

He said the public "may be left with the impression that we are not aware or concerned about the charges." He said board members "do not have words to express the tragic, horrific" case.

He said there has been an impression that the case would be covered up or a scape goat found. He said the correct move was made in having law enforcement take over the investigation.

Chairman Welch said he had confidence "that it will not be swept under the rug and will be thoroughly investigated."

He said, "If we act rashly it will hamper the ability of law enforcement to investigate."

He said board members and school personnel would not have any further comment on the case and all questions should be referred to law enforcement.

There was no public discussion by the board, which met privately with attorney Scott Bennett.

The family of the rape victim said a pool cue was inserted into his rectum and that one of the perpetrators videoed the incident.

The family also said that three other team members had been abuse victims and that there were other "hazing" incidents including assaults in dark locker rooms.

Supt. Smith made no mention of any other alleged incidents, but he said his department was cooperating with police and prosecutors. He said all county school employees were told to answer questions of detectives.

He made no mention of any personnel changes at Ooltewah High. The coach is Andre Montgomery.

Supt. Smith said investigators were concerned about alleged mis-information about the case in the news media.

In brief remarks to the Hamilton County PTA, earlier Wednesday Supt. Smith called the Ooltewah High rape case "truly a tragedy."

He said the incident was "not a reflection of all the students and staff in Hamilton County Schools."

Supt. Smith said, "We are very intent on correcting problems."


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