FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Fort Smith Attorney Joey McCutchen announced that he filed a Title IX action in federal court against the Huntsville School District.
A news release from the attorney says the lawsuit arises from the Huntsville School District’s indifference and actual knowledge of sexual assaults of multiple students and its failure to investigate reports of sexual assault.
The release says McCutchen previously filed a complaint against the Huntsville School District and Huntsville Public Schools Board of Education for violating Arkansas’ Freedom of Information Act.
According to the release, that lawsuit arose after it was discovered that the Board of Education held a meeting to consider disciplinary action against those accused of the sexual assaults without giving notice to the media. McCutchen’s office says the board did not record the meeting.
“The Huntsville School District had knowledge that these children were being sexually assaulted and did nothing,” McCutchen said. “The investigations and punishments were conducted by people with obvious conflicts of interest. The result was that the perpetrators either received no meaningful punishment or no punishment at all. This creates a hostile educational environment for all students because these perpetrators are now back in school and playing sports like nothing ever happened.”
A criminal investigation has been opened in the Huntsville case.
Prosecuting Attorney Matt Durrett said he knows the Madison Co. Sheriff’s Office is involved in the investigation, but others could also join.
Title IX documents showed claims that boys basketball players put their genitals and private parts into teammates mouths while others held the victims down, calling it “baptizing” or “bean dipping.” This went on for a number of years and happened as celebratory acts after victories, according to a Huntsville student who exclusively spoke to KNWA/Fox24 and wished to remain anonymous.
“They’d just randomly say, ‘Oh, you’re doing it today,’” the student said. “Some people would sit on people’s faces. Some other people would put their [genitals] in people’s faces.”
The student, who said he was interviewed in the initial Title IX investigation, said teammates told him they’d paid $20 a week to save themselves from the abuse. That investigation was closed with two students receiving minor punishments.
The student said abusers knew they’d face trouble and threatened others not to tell.