NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — The Huntsville School District (HSD) sent a letter out on February 26, 2021, confirming a Title IX complaint of purported sexual harassment involving a student(s). The formal Title IX complaint was filed on March 2, 2021, by Title IX Coordinator Tonja McCone.
The accusation was made that some basketball players were “baptizing” other players in the locker room. Baptizing, according to statements is, “players would hold down a player while another player attempted to put his [genitals] in the player’s face who was being held down.”
The Title IX investigation report states, “When notified of alleged behaviors, Coach Myrick and Coach Houston questioned the players individually. All players were asked the same questions with one coach recording the responses. After reviewing the responses the coaches determined the information be turned over to the Title IX coordinator.”
SCHOOL BOARD/TITLE IX HEARINGS
The Huntsville School District held an expulsion hearing at a special school board meeting on May 3, 2021. Board members voted, 3-1, in favor of expelling two students for one academic year (365 days) beginning June 1. “The student would do assignments virtually up until then and attend no school activities,” according to the board minutes.
On Wednesday, May 19, 2021, the school district held Title IX Appeal Hearings for more than nine hours.
The open meeting was called to order at 6:12 p.m. and adjourned at 3:40 a.m. There were four closed meetings for “Hearing Appeal” that were requested by four parents, 6:12 p.m., 7:12 p.m., 8:14 p.m., and 8:59 p.m. During the meeting, board members held two executive sessions from 6:50 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and again from 9:50 p.m. to 3:37 a.m.
Board President Danny Thomas recommended modifying the penalties regarding the first appeal for two students and reduce the penalty to one semester, “because the Board believes its discipline policies warrant the discipline stated in the motion,” according to the minutes.
For appeals two through four, the penalties were also modified, “because the Board believes that such responsibility has not been established from the evidence as stated in the determination letter,” stated Thomas.
This passed 4-0 to accept the recommendation. (The document obtained by KNWA/KFTA states, “DRAFT – Not yet approved by the board”).
Fifty-two students, from grades 8th to 10th, were interviewed from February to March 2021, by three investigators — two were teacher/coach and an administrator.
The ball players were asked the same seven questions:
- Do you know about “baptizing” in the locker room?
- Do you know who started it?
- Did you do it to other players? Did you see what players were doing it? Did you see who was holding players?
- Did you have it done to you? Did you see who it was done to?
- When did it start and how often did it happen?
- Did somebody tell you that you could pay money and it wouldn’t be done to you? Like $20?
- Is there anything else you would like for us coaches to know?
SOME OF THE RESPONSES
All but seven students said they knew what “baptizing” meant. A majority did not know who, or how, it all started, and some stated it had been going on for about two years. Many said they could not identify what happened during “baptizing” because “the lights would be turned off.”
In addition to baptizing, another form of hazing included “bean dipping.” One student said, “bean dipping means, a player pulls down their pants and sits on another player’s face.”
As for the selection process, two students said, “a shoe would be tossed and who it pointed to would get “baptized.”
HUNTSVILLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
(source: HPS website)
The Huntsville School District is in Northwest Arkansas and has one of three public high schools in Madison County.
- Watson Primary School (Pre K-2)
- Huntsville Intermediate School (Grades 3-5)
- Huntsville Middle School (Grades 6-8)
- Huntsville High School (Grades 9-12)
There are two other schools in Saint Paul, about 25 miles south of Huntsville, Saint Paul Elementary (Pre K-6) and Saint Paul High School (Grades 7-12). Saint Paul annexed with the Huntsville School District in the 2003-2004 school year.
There are 2,287 students at the six schools, of those 633 students are in grades 9 – 12.
All schools are fully accredited by the Arkansas Department of Education and AdvancED/North Central Association.