Supt. Rick Smith testifies in Ooltewah assault hearing
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -
A Hamilton County Juvenile Court judge decided Monday the charges filed against two Ooltewah basketball coaches and the school's athletic director will go to a grand jury. New details emerged that were previously unknown in this case, many coming from Superintendent Rick Smith.
Smith took the stand to testify about what he knew and when. He explained why the administration took a backseat in investigating the assault, saying he did not want to interfere with a criminal investigation.
Smith's testimony also raised questions about who is trained to report sexual assault.
"It imparted that we had had an incident. Ooltewah high basketball team players. Three had assaulted another one of their teammates. There was an injury to that particular student. That student actually had been transported to the hospital," testified Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith in Juvenile Court, Monday.
Smith testified about the two text messages he received on December 23, the day after a 15-year-old Ooltewah freshman basketball player was physically injured with a pool cue by a Senior member of the team, while on a tournament trip in Gatlinburg.
"I knew it was a sexual assault from the description of there being sexual abuse with what was described as a pool cue," testified Smith.
Smith testified neither he, nor the administration, took a lead role in immediately investigating what happened on the trip, as to not jeopardize the police investigation.
"It is incumbent upon us to not get involved at all in that investigation. In fact, our involvement in an investigation may create a problem of reporting where you could have a police department report and a department of education report which would very much complicate the matter," said Smith.
Attorneys for head coach Andre Montgomery, volunteer assistant coach Karl Williams, and Athletic Director Jesse Nayadley pressed Smith for details on training procedures on reporting sexual abuse or assault.
Employees have handbook guidelines, but it came out in court that volunteers, like Williams, do not receive any form of training.
"We do not provide training for volunteers. He's not an employee of Hamilton County Schools," testified Smith.
A spokesperson for Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston says Smith was not granted immunity during his testimony.
Smith also testified the trip to Gatlinburg was not approved by the board of education. There was a typo in the request form and the board sent it back. The trip happened without approval, which could lead to further legal action.
The Hamilton County School Board has voted to enter negotiations to buy out the remainder of Smith's contract after he agreed to step down as superintendent. Those negotiations have not started.