A Tennessee school superintendent is stepping down amid criticism over how his district handled reports of a rape of a high school basketball player by three teammates.
Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith issued a statement Monday saying he was retiring July 1 and that he was taking leave effective immediately.
"It has been my honor to serve Hamilton County Schools these many years," Smith said in his statement. "I would like to thank students, parents and especially all Hamilton County Department of Education employees for their support. My family and I wish only the very best for our Hamilton County public school system."
The school district has come under scrutiny over its response to the Ooltewah High School rape case. Police say a freshman basketball player required emergency surgery after teammates held him down and assaulted him with a pool cue Dec. 22 at a Gatlinburg cabin while the team was participating in a holiday tournament.
Gatlinburg police have charged three players with the rape of one teammate, though the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office has indicated four freshman players were assaulted during that trip. Ooltewah High School is located in Hamilton County, while Gatlinburg is part of Sevier County.
Ooltewah basketball coach Andre Montgomery, assistant coach Karl Williams and athletic director Allard Nayadley have pleaded not guilty to charges of failing to report the abuse to the proper authorities.
The names of the players facing charges haven't been released because they are juveniles.
The release announcing Smith's departure said that day-to-day operations would be delegated to executive staff members and administrative assistants until an interim superintendent was named.
Smith had asked for a buyout of his contract at a January school board meeting and had said at the time that the school system was "bigger than any one person" and that the Dec. 22 incident represented a tragedy "that I know all of us will live with and struggle with."
But the board had voted against the buyout last week. A motion to fire Smith didn't receive a second.