Indiana News

Carmel Accuser Could Seek $2.25M in Suit

Legal notice included in school district records release

5/21/2010

The family of one of the three accusers in the Carmel hazing case is threatening a two-and-a-quarter-million-dollar lawsuit.

Attorneys for the accuser's family filed a required notice of a potential suit against the school district last month. The district released the three-page document Friday as part of a release of public records in the case.

The notice reveals the family is listing sexual harassment as one potential ground for suing, a claim that would place the case under the federal civil rights law.

The document filed by attorney Robert Turner charges the Carmel-Clay Schools have "a lengthy history of sexual abuse and bullying," and accuses coaches and faculty of providing "no supervision whatsoever" in the school locker room.

A middle page detailing the specific accusations was deleted from the publicly released version of the document.

Four basketball players have been indicted on misdemeanor charges of recklessness, with three of the four charged with battery as well. The charges accuse the players of assaulting three students in the room, with two players accused of attacking Turner's client on a team bus following a game at South Vigo on January 22.

Other than the lawsuit notice, the four folders of documents released by the school system offer little insight into the incidents or Carmel's response. Attorney David Day says the district will continue to withhold information about the specifics of the case. He says federal laws governing the privacy of educational records give the school little leeway. Day says anything that would identify an individual student, especially in a heavily publicized incident, is considered protected information under the law.

The documents released by the district do reveal that no coaches faced formal disciplinary charges over the incidents, though Day notes that high school coaching contracts in Indiana can be terminated without cause.

Three coaches have resigned since news of the accusations broke, and head coach Mark Galloway has reportedly applied for the coaching job at Lafayette Jeff.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp has said the grand jury which indicted the players considered and rejected possible charges against coaches.

A letter from Day accompanying the records says the district does not keep records classifying incidents as "hazing," but says athletic director Jim Inskeep recalls no such incidents since he assumed that post in 2001.

Most of the documents released comprise 16 alarmed emails to school officials, many demanding harsh action against the players, or, in some cases, the coaches or principal John Williams. An internal email from Superintendent Jeff Swensson indicates the district ignored emails from people with no connection to the school system, but made a point of responding to correspondence from parents and alumni.

One email from school board member Tricia Hackett to Swensson, sent 11 days after the school says it learned of the accusations, expresses concern over an online poll blasting the district's handling of the incident.

Swensson's response dismisses the results, saying, "I don't think that such a 'poll' will attract input from people who agree...that our obligation to our students under the law is paramount."

A followup sent 23 minutes later, though, wonders if the school system can improve its response.

"I agree that it's troubling that we're hearing a lot of 'they're not doing things right,'" Swensson writes. He laments a lack of recognition of what the school system does do right, while acknowledging the district does not discuss its actions with the media.

"We'll keep working hard to get our message out as effectively as possible," the email promises.
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