Ooltewah High rape: "Conversations need to happen"
Many in the community are trying to come to grips with accusations against three local high school basketball players charged with sexually assaulting a fellow teammate. The three Ooltewah High students were arrested last week in Gatlinburg. The team was playing in the Smoky Mountain Classic basketball tournament.
Many in the community are trying to come to grips with accusations against three local high school basketball players charged with sexually assaulting a fellow teammate.
The three Ooltewah High students were arrested last week in Gatlinburg. The team was playing in the Smoky Mountain Classic basketball tournament. The incident happened in a cabin. The Times Free Press is reporting the suspects injured the victim with a pool cue.
"Whenever we hear something like this as a community, it traumatizes us all. The idea that people can do this to other people, it's scary, especially if you have children," says Nancy Graves Wahler.
Nancy Graves Wahler is a licensed clinical social worker who grew up in Ooltewah and went to Ooltewah High. She says the news of teammates sexually assaulting a freshman student hits close to home.
"I have a 10 year old and I have a 14 year old. And I didn't go into detail, obviously about the assault, but I did talk about, you know, a kid on a team who probably just wanted to play basketball," she says. "Hopefully no one would ever turn an (blind) eye to something this serious."
The rape has school board member Rhonda Thurman outraged.
"I don't think they should be allowed back in the school system, period. I don't think we need to provide them a platform to come in and brag and for other children to have to go to school with them," says Thurman.
Superintendent Rick Smith tells Channel 3 the three accused attackers will not be coming back to school.
"The important thing is not to avoid it," says Wahler.
Wahler says when school returns it is important to have conversations with students about what happened.
"The more it's talked about the less it's stigmatized and the more likely people are to get help," says Wahler.
She also says there needs to be conversations on what being part of a team truly means.
"Conversations need to happen, conversations about the importance of lifting people up and not shoving them down and that you can be important without taking somebody else's power away," says Wahler.
In the meantime, she hopes the victim gets the help he needs.
"I really hope this individual does seek therapy," says Wahler.
Wahler says it is a chance to raise awareness.
"We are resilient individuals and given the resources that we need, we can move forward and who knows, maybe even end up being an advocate or helping out in some way so that this doesn't happen to someone else."
Superintendent Rick Smith describes this as a "tragic situation." He says meetings about what needs to happen next with the team will happen when school returns Monday.
The offense does fall under the school's zero tolerance policy which could mean a full year of suspension at the very least for those three students. Their identities have not been revealed because they are juveniles.
If you would like to donate to the Ooltewah HS Basketball player's medical bill click here.