A Tennessee school superintendent has canceled the remainder of the season for the Ooltewah high school boys’ basketball team after a freshman player said he was raped by teammates in an apparent hazing incident.
Hamilton County superintendent Rick Smith said on Wednesday he took the unusual step “so that the criminal justice system can work the way we expect” after the school board met in response to the alleged 22 December assault that has rocked the suburban Chattanooga community.
Three juveniles face rape and aggravated assault charges in connection with injuries to a 15-year-old team-mate, who underwent surgery after being attacked during an overnight trip to the Smoky Mountain Basketball Tournament in Gatlinburg. The victim’s grandmother told CNN that the boy was attacked with a pool cue, with multiple reports indicating he was hospitalized for more than a week with a ruptured colon and bladder.
Another relative told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that one of the assailants recorded the incident, which has left the victim with limited movement due to a colostomy bag and catheter.
Two of the accused are currently being held in a juvenile detention facility in Sevier County, while the third was granted bond.
The school’s athletics director Jesse Nayadley told WTVC-TV that the coaches were staying at the rental cabin with the boys during the overnight tournament trip.
Ooltewah principal James Jarvis has expressed support of the decision to cancel the season.
The victim has described the incident as a “ritual for freshmen” and not an isolated one, prompting an investigation by the Hamilton County district attorney’s office into an alleged culture of hazing.
“At present no one has contacted Hamilton County law enforcement to formally report any criminal behavior having taken place in Hamilton County by anyone associated with the OHS boy’s basketball team,” Melydia Clewell, spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said in a statement. “However, recent media reports cite family members of OHS freshman basketball players who accuse upper class teammates of an ongoing pattern of assaults allegedly committed under the guise of hazing.”
Andre Montgomery, who has spent three years on Ooltewah’s coaching staff including the past two as head coach, denied the culture of hazing in a statement to WTVC-TV : “[It] is critical to our community as a whole and to our injured player that everyone understand that there is no culture of sexual assault at Ooltewah. Similarly, there is no culture of hazing or abuse at Ooltewah where athletes are encouraged or taught to violate the law (or even simple human decency) by teachers, administrators or coaches.
“As alleged, this is a terrible and shameful act perpetrated by three individuals.”
A GoFundMe page for the victim and his family has raised more than $30,000 in 11 days.
The accused are due to appear in court on 26 January.