McCutchen address Huntsville concerns in case involving sexual assault of students
Updated: Oct 22, 2021
Fort Smith Attorney Joey McCutchen, along with clients Benjamin Rightsell and Rebecca Nelle, held a press conference on Friday at the Madison County Courthouse in Huntsville.
McCutchen discussed his clients' pursuit of criminal investigations involving responsible Huntsville School District officials for a recently discovered intentional violation of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
McCutchen also discussed the District's specific knowledge about sexual assaults involving children and its failure to immediately report them to the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline as required by Arkansas law.
The sexual assaults involved members of the ninth-grade boys' basketball team engaging in what was called "baptism" and "bean-dipping." "Baptism" refers to basketball players restraining other students while other players placed their genitals on or in the faces of the restrained students.
"Bean-dipping" refers to a student forcibly placing their rectum and anus on the face and particularly on the nose of another. Several children were repeatedly sexually assaulted, with at least one student being abused fourteen times.
McCutchen announced that a Second Amended Complaint was filed against the Huntsville School District and Huntsville Public Schools Board of Education for violating Arkansas' Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”).
You can read that complaint by clicking this link:
The original lawsuit arose from the District's failure to give notice to the media of a hearing to consider disciplinary action against students accused of engaging in the act known as "baptism" and "bean-dipping." An Amended Complaint was later filed by McCutchen adding nine additional FOIA violations.
The Second Amended Complaint adds two additional FOIA violations ("Claims VII-VIII") including an allegation that the District refused to produce documents pursuant to a FOIA request. Specifically, the District refused to turn over any documents concerning allegations of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and the act known as "baptizing" or "bean-dipping." However, these documents were previously provided to the Madison County Record through a FOIA request.
An example of one of the responsive text messages that the Defendants refused to produce is a text message from Huntsville School Superintendent Audra Kimbell and Huntsville School Board President Danny Thomas. Thomas stated, "I'm sure you're aware of evidently some serious matters going on with the junior high boys in the locker room situation. There's a storm on the horizon over this I'm afraid. We can talk about tomorrow, but it sounds pretty bad."
McCutchen said, "The District's refusal to produce text messages and other documents related to the sexual assault which had previously been provided to the Madison County Record is an intentional violation of FOIA. Those responsible should be held fully accountable both civilly and criminally."
McCutchen added, "In light of the intentional violations of FOIA, and the District's failure to immediately report these sexual assaults as mandated reporters, we are asking the Madison County Prosecuting Attorney to fully investigate and file criminal charges against the responsible parties."