Area school leaders: "We don't want to be the next Ooltewah"
Area school district leaders have responded to the Ooltewah High School basketball controversy with a flurry of meetings and directives.
Area school district leaders have responded to the Ooltewah High School basketball controversy with a flurry of meetings and directives. One school director, who asked not to be identified, told Eyewitness News, "We have to be proactive. We don't want to be the next Ooltewah."
This, in response to a story that has shocked and saddened people locally, and beyond. An incident during a basketball tournament in Gatlinburg, Tennessee on December 22 has gained widespread attention. After reports emerged of an attack on a freshman by older students, new details have been released. We now know that a senior and two sophomores were dismissed from the team, and later charged with aggravated rape and aggravated assault. Two of the students are still being held in Juvenile Detention in Sevier County, while the third was granted bond.
Sources say the younger student was attacked with a pool cue. Members of the victim's family say he was hospitalized for eight days, and has since been recovering at home. They say he will not return to Ooltewah High School.
Wednesday afternoon, Superintendent Rick Smith cancelled the team's season after pressure from School Board members, and reports from schools on Ooltewah's schedule that parents were urging them not to play Ooltewah. The victim's family is now calling for the termination of Ooltewah coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery, who was among the adults who accompanied the team to Gatlinburg.
In Bradley County, Director Dr. Linda Cash said her district would be renewing its commitment to enforcement of policies that discourage hazing and bullying. A first-year director, she said such reviews were already taking place, but recent events emphasize the need for such conversations. She added, "These conversations need to take place among families as well."
Cleveland Director of Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff echoed those sentiments, saying meetings on the topic had taken place in recent days, with more to follow among administrators, coaches and teachers.
Marion County Director of Schools Dr. Mark Griffith has called a meeting of his principals and athletic directors for Monday morning "to discuss policies and procedures surrounding recent events in Hamilton County involving Ooltewah High School."
In McMinn County, Director Mickey Blevins said, "I have asked principals to address their faculties, especially those who are field trip supervisors, on the issue. Also, my athletic directors are to reinforce with all coaches. We are covering field trips, supervision, hazing and criminal acts committed because this goes beyond hazing."
Sequatchie County Director Pete Swafford said, "We have a regular administrative staff meeting scheduled Thursday morning. It will be one of the items discussed. Our high school principal met with coaches this morning. I plan to meet with our high school athletes on Monday afternoon to address these issues."
Walker County GA Superintendent Damon Raines is preparing for a leadership meeting later this month. He said, "We will ask our administrators and coaches to remind students of our behavior expectations while at school or representing their school at another location. We will also remind them of how to report violations of any aspect of our behavior expectations and reinforce the importance of this reporting."
In Dade County, GA, Superintendent Cherie Swader said, "We are planning on meeting with the leadership teams from each school. I also have a call into our attorneys so that we can look at our policies concerning overnight field trips and bullying/hazing."
Denia Reese, who heads up Catoosa County GA schools said, "Our central office director in charge of athletics will discuss these issues. Our athletic directors and coaches will meet with students to remind them of our behavior expectations and how to report any type of behavior that violates our student code of conduct." She added, "As a mother of two boys, my heart is broken for the young man who was abused."