Complaint filed against Wash. Co. Department of Education after 2015 hazing investigation

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, TN (WJHL)- Some school leaders now face legal action after four Tri-Cities student athletes were suspended in a hazing investigation.

We told you back in July of last year the Washington County, Tennessee Board of Education began investigating an alleged hazing incident at a Christian football camp.

An anonymous email sent to administrators said it happened while the David Crockett High School football team was at Tennessee Tech University.

Now, a complaint has been filed in circuit court against the school board and department of education, accusing board members of unfair treatment during the investigation.

The attorney for the plaintiff in this complaint, Richard Phillips, told us his client wants to remain anonymous.

According to the complaint filed in July, the Washington County Board of Education suspended the student without letting the student know specifically what they were accused of.

It also said the student was not treated fairly during the investigation and was not given a chance to appeal.

The complaint also alleges a parent of one of the accused students asked for a hearing, which was denied.

The legal filing accuses the school system of not providing the parents with the correct information in order to appeal.

In a statement sent to us by the plaintiff’s counsel it said:

“At this time, the plaintiff and his family wish to remain anonymous, and applicable law prevents me from revealing the identity of any juvenile involved in the case. Plaintiff’s position in this case is supported by well-settled statutory and case law as cited in the pleadings, and the following is clear from the facts and pertinent law: The plaintiff was, by way of the suspension and other actions by the Defendant Washington County Department of Education and its agents (hereinafter, “Defendant”), unlawfully deprived of his due process rights under applicable Federal and State laws as provided in the complaint filed with the Washington County Circuit Court. Specifically, defendant subjected the plaintiff to suspension without advising plaintiff of the acts or omissions he was accused of, thereby depriving him of his right to defend himself. Plaintiff was, as a matter of law, unlawfully deprived by the defendant of proper due process in that it is impossible for a citizen to defend him or herself against a given accusation without first knowing what that accusation is. Defendant was given the opportunity on several different occasions to correct its errors. Each time, defendant refused to advise plaintiff of any single specific allegation of fact giving rise to the suspension. Plaintiff and plaintiff’s family were given erroneous information regarding proper filing deadlines and procedures (see complaint and exhibits), were asked by defendant to attend a specific school board meeting and subsequently denied the floor at that meeting (see complaint and exhibits), and even threatened by defendant with arrest and criminal charges arising out of plaintiff’s lawful exercise of his due process rights. At no point to date has plaintiff, plaintiff’s family, or plaintiff’s counsel ever been advised of the act or omission alleged to have been committed by the plaintiff and given rise to the suspension. Plaintiff simply wishes for the defendant to treat all of its students fairly under the laws of this country and of this great state. You have my thanks and the gratitude of my client and his family for giving them a voice.” -Richard Phillips, counsel for the Plaintiff

We also reached out to Washington County’s Attorney Thomas J. Seeley, III who said in an e-mail statement:

” The litigation filed against the Washington County Board of Education essentially alleges that the Board failed to notify the parents of a former student of an administrative disciplinary hearing regarding the student’s involvement in a hazing incident at David Crockett High School.  The County intends to show that the parents were given notice by letter prior to the hearing and that the Board of Education and School System followed all applicable laws regarding the disciplinary process. ” – Thomas J. Seeley

Wednesday night Seeley said the school board had not yet filed a response to the complaint.Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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