CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Three officials at a Tennessee high school were charged Thursday with failing to report the sexual abuse of four basketball players in a complaint that portrayed a far broader assault at a cabin where players were staying during a tournament than authorities had previously announced.
The criminal complaint filed by the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office came as county education officials in Chattanooga met to discuss potential anti-bullying policies and listen to the concerns of parents.
Gatlinburg Police have charged three male Ooltewah High School basketball teammates with the Dec. 22 aggravated rape of one player but have not announced any other charges.
But according to an affidavit filed with Thursday's complaint, "four freshmen basketball players were subjected to assaultive behavior including but not limited to being struck with pool cues and also these four freshman basketball players were subjected to apparent sexual assault."
The team is from the Hamilton County suburb of Ooltewah (OOL'-teh-wah), but the affidavit states the assaults occurred in the Appalachian Mountains resort town of Gatlinburg, where the team stayed in a cabin from Dec. 19-23.
"One player required emergency surgery due to the injuries he received," the affidavit said.
A Gatlinburg Police department investigator did not respond to a voice mail Thursday asking about the three assaults that allegedly occurred in addition to the one for which the three players were charged.
The three school officials named in the Hamilton County complaint were identified as head basketball coach Andre Montgomery, assistant basketball coach Karl Williams and athletic director Allard Nayadley. The complaint noted that Tennessee law requires "mandatory reports of child abuse, apparent child sexual abuse or child sexual abuse."
Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Robert Philyaw issued a summons Thursday ordering the three officials to appear in court Jan. 21. Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith said all three officials are suspended without pay while their cases are pending. Smith had announced Monday that Montgomery was being transferred to a nonteaching role off campus.
"(I'm) surprised and disappointed," Smith said. "I trust that we as school personnel are always going to do what's right and what's required of them. I hesitate to say much more about that because I don't know what's going to happen in the next few days or weeks. We'll see, and then we'll move forward from there."
Smith said he wasn't made aware of the criminal charges against the three officials until he read news reports about it Thursday afternoon. Smith had announced last week he was calling off the rest of Ooltewah's season.
Montgomery's attorney, Curtis Bowe, didn't return a phone call Thursday. Bowe had issued a statement last week saying that "the issue affecting our community is not hazing or bullying" and instead "is the unilateral decision of three individuals charged with a sexual offense."
School officials held an hourlong public forum Thursday night allowing citizens at a packed board room to express their concerns. Although most of them didn't address this specific case, some expressed their issues with how this school district has handled bullying complaints in the past.
For example, one parent discussed her disappointment with the way the school district responded to her own son's situation. Tonya McBryar said her son was seriously injured after standing up to someone who was bullying his friend on a school bus four years ago.
"You didn't have his back," McBryar said. "You expect us parents and our kids to follow your policies. You don't even follow your own policies."
One person who did speak specifically on the case was Kyle Duckett, a 2015 Ooltewah graduate who played football and said hazing or bullying was never condoned. Duckett said he wanted "the witch hunt to stop" and called the school officials facing charges "fine, upstanding people."
"Without them, I wouldn't be the man I am today," Duckett said.
Before the public forum, Hamilton County school officials held a work session to study how it could improve its anti-bullying policies. Scott Bennett, the Hamilton County School District's attorney, said the district's anti-bullying policies followed state requirements but needed to be made clearer.
Loller reported from Nashville, Tennessee.