CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston’s office released its report in the wake of the Ooltewah basketball tournament rape scandal.
It details the attacks against four Ooltewah High School freshmen during an out of
town tournament trip.
It found that just taking the student players on the trip was a violation of School Board policy.
Pinkston’s office determined this act revealed fundamental flaws in HCDE’s approach to
supervising employees, and ultimately, students.
The report found, “From the moment the basketball coaches drove the team out of town without Board approval, the system failed.”
It continues to detail how the adults involved failed to adequately supervise the students, failed to recognize the significance of the horrific injuries suffered during a rape, failed to notify the victims’ parents, failed to provide a swift and appropriate response to the attacks, and failed to assure the public that proactive measures would be taken to address the root causes of these failures.
It also said, “it is apparent a culture of bullying and hazing is ingrained as the norm among Ooltewah High School athletes. This culture has been primarily fostered by permissive coaches and an apathetic administration that has looked the other way for more than a decade, perhaps much longer.”
The report also detailed instances of hazing and bullying at several other Hamilton County public schools, including Signal Mountain and Hixson.
The report determined “HCDE leaders have been unwilling and/or unable to adequately train its
employees and volunteers on their duty to ensure the safety of every student.”
Thursday afternoon Hamilton County Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelley released a statement.
“As Superintendent my top priority is ensuring the safety of all 43,000 students in our Hamilton County public schools.
Late this afternoon, District Attorney Neil Pinkston released a report detailing his findings about the incident that occurred last December. We are in the process of reviewing this report and will determine additional steps as we continue to improve our district.
We have already made significant changes in our district over the past six months including new and stricter policies, stronger training for our employees about abuse reporting, and a more comprehensive approach to crisis management and communications. However, the report may provide us an additional opportunity to enhance our practices, provide better support and safety for all students moving forward.
While this has been a difficult time for many, I believe we will be better positioned in the future by having taken the right training path, creating greater awareness of appropriate behavior and encouraging the sharing of timely information.”