Doe v. Hamilton Cnty. Bd. of Educ.

Decision Date06 August 2018
Docket NumberCase No. 1:16-cv-373 (Lead), Case No. 1:16-cv-497
Citation329 F.Supp.3d 543
Parties John DOE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. HAMILTON COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al., Defendants. Richard Roe, Sr., et al., Plaintiffs, v. Hamilton County Department of Education, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Tennessee

Douglas E. Fierberg, Monica H. Beck, The Fierberg National Law Group, Traverse City, MI, Edmund J. Schmidt, III, Law Offices of Edmund J. Schmidt, III, Nashville, TN, Justin S. Gilbert, Gilbert McWherter Scott & Bobbitt, Eric J. Oliver, Lewis & Oliver, Chattanooga, TN, for Plaintiffs.

Arthur F. Knight, III, Jonathan Swann Taylor, Taylor & Knight, GP, Nathaniel Dale Moore, Kramer, Rayson LLP, Knoxville, TN, Charles M. Purcell, Christopher C. Hayden, Jennifer C. Craig, Purcell, Sellars, and Craig, Inc., Jackson, TN, D. Scott Bennett, Mary C. DeCamp, Bennett & DeCamp, PLLC, Chattanooga, TN, for Defendants.



This matter is before the Court on the Parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. [Docs. 172, 176, 177, & 178]. These consolidated cases were brought on behalf of two teenagers, the victims of hazing and sexual assault at their former high school. While on a school basketball trip, John Doe and Richard Roe, Jr.'s teammates held them down and sexually attacked them with a pool cue. Doe's attack was particularly gruesome because it resulted in him being anally penetrated with the narrow end of a pool cue, leaving him seriously injured. Doe's and Roe's parents, on behalf of their sons, brought claims against the Hamilton County Department of Education, some of its school administrators, and one of its teachers asserting Title IX, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and state law tort claims. Plaintiffs allege, in sum, that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to Doe's and Roe's harassment in violation of their statutory and constitutional rights, and further that the school system and its agents were negligent.

Because the Court finds factual questions permeate Doe's and Roe's sexual assault, the Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Doc. 178] is DENIED . Although those questions create a triable issue as to pre-assault deliberate indifference, after the assaults the Hamilton County Department of Education acted reasonably in its response by promptly punishing Doe and Roe's attackers and investigating the incidents. Further, the Court finds there are genuine issues of fact regarding whether the Department was constitutionally deficient in its relevant staff training. Accordingly, Hamilton County Department of Education's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 177] will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part . Likewise, there is insufficient evidence demonstrating the individual defendants in this action violated constitutional rights, and all are otherwise protected by qualified immunity. As such, Andre Montgomery, James Jarvis, and Jesse Nayadley's Motions for Summary Judgment [Docs. 172, & 176] are hereby GRANTED .


In 2015, John Doe ("Doe") and Richard Roe, Jr. ("Roe"), were freshmen at Ooltewah High School ("OHS"), a school administered by the Hamilton County Department of Education (the "Department"). There Doe and Roe participated in the school's basketball program. Most freshmen that aspired to play basketball at OHS were resigned to play on the school's freshman squad, but Doe's and Roe's skill earned them a spot on the varsity team. [Doc. 185 at 1]. What at first appeared to be an honor soon turned out to be a source of torment.

The OHS varsity team was allegedly rife with bullying and hazing. [Doc. 185 at 4, & 186 at 5]. One favored form of hazing was what the players referred to as "racking-in" or the "rackings." [Doc. 179 at 2–3] Rackings consisted of upperclassmen beating freshman players in the team locker room with the lights out. [Doc. 185 at 3]. Three upperclassmen in particular were prominent "rackers," Students A, B, and C. [Doc. 185 at 2]. The three actually started the rackings once they joined the basketball team later that year, in November. [Id. ]. All four of the team's freshman players—Doe, Roe, and Students F and H—fell victim to the rack. [Doc. 185 at 3]. The frequency of rackings would vary per player; Doe says he was racked-in only once, but Roe claims he was put through the freshman rack multiple times per week. [Doc. 179 at 2]. Neither Doe nor Roe ever reported the rackings to school officials. [Doc. 173 at 5].

The varsity team's coach was Andre Montgomery ("Montgomery"), a defendant in this action. [Doc. 177-1 at 2]. Montgomery was also a teacher at OHS, and he had coached basketball at the school in some capacity since 2009. [Doc. 185 at 2]. Montgomery's office was next door to the team's locker room, and on more than one occasion he entered the locker room to find the players inside with the lights off. [Id. at 4–5]. His typical response consisted of him turning on the lights and yelling "knock off the horseplay." [Id. at 5]. Montgomery also occasionally punished players for hazing or horseplay. [Id. ]. Plaintiffs assert this is evidence Montgomery knew of the rackings. [Id. at 4]. Montgomery denies he had any such knowledge. [Doc. 173 at 4].

A. The Gatlinburg Trip

On December 19, 2015, the varsity team and Coach Montgomery traveled to the Gatlinburg, Tennessee area to participate in the "Smokey Mountains Christmas Classic" basketball tournament. [Id. at 3]. The trip was scheduled to last five days, with at least four overnight stays in Gatlinburg. [Id. ]. The team's fourteen players, Montgomery, his wife, his daughter, and an Assistant Coach, Karl Williams, would all stay in a single cabin, "JJ's Hideaway." [Id. ]. The cabin had two floors. [Doc. 185 at 5]. The boys were divided into three rooms in a downstairs area, and the adults and Montgomery's daughter stayed in two rooms upstairs. [Id. ]. When downstairs, the players were secluded from the adults, which effectively left them unsupervised. [See e.g. id. at 6]. Montgomery and Williams ventured down "only once or twice" during the entire trip. [Id. ] However, Montgomery claimed he could hear the players downstairs, including their conversations. [Doc. 185 at 7]. The downstairs area had a den that featured a billiards table. [Id. at 6]. Prior to and early on in the trip, Student B hinted to the freshmen that "something" was going to happen during the trip, and the upperclassmen would talk and joke about using pool cues on the freshmen, although at first Doe believed it was their intention to merely beat the freshman with the cues. [See Docs. 177-1 at 3, & 179 at 4]. Doe actually attempted to hide the pool cues to prevent their use. [Doc. 179 at 4]. Doe's efforts ultimately failed, however, and before the trip's end Students A, B, and C would use those pool cues to sexually assault the team's four freshmen.

Montgomery and Williams' laissez-faire approach to supervision is evidenced by their actions upon arriving at the cabin on December 19th. The two decided to go grocery shopping, leaving the players unsupervised for almost two hours. [Doc. 185 at 6]. The scene quickly devolved into a proverbial Lord of the Flies situation. [Doc. 179]. Once the adults left, upperclassmen shut off the cabin lights. [Doc. 185 at 6]. The freshmen scattered. Doe, Roe, and another freshman sought shelter in a locked bathroom, where upperclassmen soon broke in, beat up the screaming freshmen, and drug them out. [Doc. 177-1 at 5]. Bands of upperclassmen then rounded up and threw fully clothed freshmen into the cabin's outdoor hot tub, on that cold December night. [Doc. 185 at 7]. Doe and Roe were among the victims. [Id. ].

The next night, December 20, 2015, the trip took an even darker turn. Upperclassmen found the hidden pool cues. Students A and C soon grabbed one of the team's freshman, Student F, and pinned him to the ground [Doc. 185 at 7]. While the two held him down, Student B took a pool cue and used it to prod Student F's anus, over his clothes. [Id. ]. Throughout the attack, Student F screamed. [Id. ]. Soon thereafter, Student A hunted down and grabbed Roe, wrestled him to the ground, and sat on his back to prevent his escape. [Id. ]. Then Student B, like he had done with Student F, placed a pool cue over Roe's clothes, between his buttocks, and "attempted to penetrate ... Roe's rectum" with the cue. [Doc. 177-1 at 6]. While Student B was doing this he was yelling "don't be a pussy," and "take it like a man." [Doc. 185 at 7].

The sexual assaults continued the next night, on December 21st. [Doc. 177-1 at 6]. After playing a game of pool, Doe heard Students A and C yell, "Get 'em" as they grabbed another freshman, Student H. [Id. ]. Doe fled the room and hid at the top of the cabin stairs. [Docs. 177-1 at 6, & 185 at 8]. From there Doe could hear Student H's screams as the upperclassmen used a pool cue to simulate sodomy on him as they had before. [Doc. 185 at 8].

The attacks came to a horrifying crescendo the night of December 22, 2015. That night, after dinner, Doe went downstairs to grab his cell phone. [Doc. 185 at 8]. There Students A, B, and C ambushed him. [Id. ]. They followed him into his room while holding a pool cue, and closed and locked the door. [Id. ]. Roe witnessed this while standing at the top of the stairs talking to Williams, and he reported what he was seeing. [Id. ]. Williams's response was "they better not be doing anything to him." [Id. ]. In the room, Students A and C held Doe down. [Doc. 177-1 at 7]. Student B then took the pool cue and forcefully rammed it into Doe's anus. [Id. ]. This was done over his clothes, as it had been done in prior attacks, but this time the ramming was so forceful that the cue ripped through two layers of Doe's clothing and actually penetrated him. [Doc. 185 at 8]. His attackers then ran away. [Id. ] Roe could hear Doe's screams from where he was standing. [Id. ]. Roe and Williams then...

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