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Fame and now shame for a basketball team: Times Free Press special report one year ago (8/19/16)

Here is the link to the story

Excerpt

report detailing a private attorney’s investigation into Ooltewah High School states a “culture of hazing” existed on the school’s basketball team, and head coach Andre “Tank” Montgomery knew “excessive horseplay” was taking place before a freshman on the team was raped, allegedly by three of his teammates.

Following the sexual assault, the report states that the school’s former Principal Jim Jarvis and former Athletic Director Allard “Jesse” Nayadley failed to appropriately handle the situation.

The Hamilton County Board of Education commissioned Courtney Bullard, a local private attorney with experience in Title IX compliance, to investigate the school in March following the rape, and voted Thursday night to release the findings.  Previously the report was sealed under attorney-client privilege.

Bullard states in the report that she interviewed more than 40 people, 15 of which are basketball players, and found that bullying was taking place before the team’s trip to Gatlinburg where the assault occurred, just days before Christmas.

“Racking in”

Players told Bullard that “racking in” occurred on the team prior to the trip, and described it as upperclassmen turning off the lights in the locker room and punching freshman with their fists from the neck down, according to the report.

“Many players described “racking in” as horseplay or “boys being boys.” This description is indicative of a desensitization and minimization of the behavior and a lack of education on what conduct constitutes hazing,” the report states.

“Players did not report the behavior because they did not want to be a “snitch” and they did not want it to get worse,” the report continues.

Bullard states in the report that this bullying “created an environment within the school that had the potential to interfere with the victims’ educational environment. Moreover, there is a high likelihood that the behavior would have continued had the Gatlinburg incident not happened.”

 

The report states that the school’s administrators, parents and players described the basketball team’s head coach Andre “Tank” Montgomery as a good man, but some also said he behaved “more as a friend than an authority figure.”

The team’s volunteer assistant coach Karl Williams was considered to be more of the disciplinarian on the team, according to the report.

The report states that players never explicitly told administrators or coaches about “racking in,” but that “it is difficult to believe, that at a minimum, Mr. Montgomery was not aware of excessive horseplay occurring in the locker room.”

Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston has charged Montgomery with four charges of failure to report child sexual abuse.  Williams faced the same charges, but they were later dropped.

 

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

The assault

A culture of sexual assault was not found to exist on the team, according to the report, and there was not evidence that Hamilton County Department of Education or Ooltewah High School administrators knew or should have known such incidents would occur in Gatlinburg.

During the sexual assault, older players on the team intentionally placed a pool cue against the freshman’s rectum, the report states.

After learning about what happened, Jarvis and Nayadley “failed to take appropriate measures” to handle the situation and did not notify the families of the freshman.  They also allowed the team to play the next day, the report states.

Jarvis made the decision allowing the boys to continue playing in the tournament, which was largely based on reports he received from Nayadley, according to the report.

“Mr. Nayadley felt the players were ready to play and wanted to play,” the report states.  “None of the players interviewed stated that they wanted to play.”

Bullard said by not contacting parents and allowing the team to play, Jarvis and Nayadley “failed to take appropriate measure to address the effects of the hazing, bullying and sexual harassment of the freshmen players.”

 

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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