WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Washington County prosecutor will not file charges against Huntsville Schools officials for failing to report abuse to the child abuse hotline after allegations of student hazing occurred on a Huntsville Junior High basketball team.
Prosecutor Matt Durrett, who also covers Madison County, says charges were not filed because what was reported did not fit the legal definition of maltreatment.
“There’s a definition of maltreatment, and the two that we looked at were abuse or sexual abuse. And those themselves are defined as well and the allegations in this particular case, what was reported to school officials did not fall into one of those definitions,” Durrett said.
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.”
An incident report written by Captain Russell Alberts with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office states that the incident was brought to the attention of Roxanne Enix on February 9, 2021, who would have been the first mandated reporter to have knowledge of the incident.
The incident report by Alberts also states sexual abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation and abandonment don’t apply in this case, even though there may have been an indecent exposure there was no sexual gratification involved.
This leaves only abuse, which by definition refers to acts carried out by a parent, guardian or others, not the victim’s peers, according to the incident report.
“We did not have the evidence to show that it was for sexual gratification. It appeared to be more of a hazing type of incident, which, once again, you’d maybe say that meets the definition of abuse, but it doesn’t because of the age requirement,” Durrett said.
One Huntsville School parent, Benjamin Rightsell says the Washington County prosecutor is finding loopholes to protect the school officials, not the students who fell victim to the alleged sexual abuse.
“Did they go and ask these boys if there’s gratification or are they just assuming? I wasn’t there. So I don’t know, but there must there had to been some sort of reason why they kept doing it,” said Rightsell.
The complaint was dated October 22, 2021, for the timeframe of late October 2020 through February 2021.
“My position is always err on the side of caution and call it in, but that doesn’t mean you have to. If there’s a situation where someone should have called it in, but didn’t, if they weren’t required to, I can’t prosecute them,” Durrett said.
Mandated reporters are required to report incidents involving suspected or actual child maltreatment. The Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline received six calls about the case on March 2, 2021.
You can call the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-482-5964 and find more information here.