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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
CHATTANOOGA - An East Tennessee school system continues to argue it should not be held liable for the reported sexual assaults of freshmen on a high school basketball team, according to a response filed in federal court last week.
Responding to the second lawsuit brought against the school system in connection with the 2015 Ooltewah High School rape case, Hamilton County Schools claims the plaintiff has "no legally cognizable action against this Defendant for negligent supervision."
The second lawsuit was filed in December by the family of a former Ooltewah High School basketball player, who was sexually assaulted by older players during the team's trip to Gatlinburg more than a year ago, according Hamilton County District Attorney's office.
Before the trip, the victim referred to as "Roe" in court papers, endured months of harassment and beatings by teammates, which was a ritual on the team, as the school district allowed a culture of bullying and sexual assault to fester at the school, according to the lawsuit.
In the district's 17-page response, attorney Charles Purcell denies the lawsuit's allegations. Purcell's response is almost identical to the one he filed on behalf of the Hamilton County Board of Education, who is named in the first federal lawsuit in the case.
The response says the school district shouldn't be held responsible for the alleged injuries the victim received from three older teammates, saying the boys are the sole cause of the alleged injuries.
Three former Ooltewah High School students were convicted in connection with the pool cue rape of one freshman, and they were not charged by the Gatlinburg Police Department for the other attacks. The oldest of the perpetrators, who turned 18 soon after being arrested in this case, was convicted of aggravated rape and aggravated assault in Sevier County Juvenile Court, and the two other players, 16 at the time of the attack, were convicted of aggravated assault. All three boys have been released from juvenile detention.
If anyone should have been aware the three boys were going to commit the attack, it would have been their parents, not the school district, the response argues.
Both federal lawsuits also name former Ooltewah High School Principal James Jarvis, the school's former Athletic Director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley and former coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery as defendants. These three men are being represented separately in both cases by Arthur Knight, according to court records.
Montgomery and Nayadley were in Gatlinburg at the time of the attack, and Jarvis was an administrator at the school during many of the allegations of abuse cited in the lawsuit.
Knight requested additional time to file a response to this second lawsuit, and is expected to respond by Feb. 10.
Purcell also filed a response on behalf of Marsha Drake, who was the district's Title IX coordinator at the time of the rape. This response is nearly identical to the one he filed for the school district.
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