Criminal investigations remain ongoing into sexual assault allegations involving the Huntsville boys basketball program. 

The investigations began after allegations contained in a Title IX investigation involving the baptizing of players were published by The Record in a June 10 article. 

The boys described the act of “baptizing” as occurring when several basketball players physically restrained younger teammates while other players undressed and placed their genitals in or on the restrained players’ faces. Players said baptizing happened most often after home games in the boys locker room.

In a Title IX investigation into the junior high school team conducted by the district, two junior high school basketball players admitted to “baptizing” teammates. According to a victim’s parent, the incidents happened multiple times to several players. Some players were “baptized” more than 10 times. 

School Board President Danny Thomas, Huntsville School District Superintendent Audra Kimball and Director of Athletics Tom McCollough were made aware of the allegations at the end of February. 

In a Title IX investigatory report sent to parents in April, the district noted a School Resource Officer was aware of the allegations. 

When parent Carl Stewart received that same report, he said he called Madison County Sheriff Rick Evans and asked Evans what Evans planned to do about the allegations. But Evans was not interested in the case, Stewart said.

“They just weren’t hearing it,” Stewart said.

In June when asked about the allegations, Evans told The Record, “The school’s handling it.”

Recently, the sheriff’s office reversed course and began investigating.

On June 21, Kimball told the Huntsville School District’s attorney that the sheriff’s office had requested documents from the Title IX investigation.

“The sheriff explained to me that the heat is now on them,” Kimball said. “I reminded him that the SRO (School Resource Officer Monica Blair, who is conducting the sheriff’s office investigation) has known about the situation all along,” Kimball wrote. 

The school’s attorney suggested the sheriff’s office would need a subpoena to obtain the Title IX records. 

A parent filed a complaint on July 6 with Huntsville Chief of Police Todd Thomas. An additional complaint was filed last week with the police. Todd Thomas, who is Danny Thomas’ brother, said he would immediately turn over the investigation the Arkansas State Police due to the conflict of interest he has in the case. 

Thomas said that he had been out of the office last week quarantined due to Covid-19 and was just getting caught up. 

“I spoke with ASP,” he said. 

“I’m not sure what their official status is. It is an open case so I really can’t comment on it.”

According to Bill Sadler, spokesperson for the ASP, an investigation has not been opened.

“The Arkansas State Police has not opened any type of criminal investigation associated with the incidents you’ve described.  Your inquiry should be re-directed to the local law enforcement agency of jurisdictions that have been directly involved with these allegations,” he said. 

The Title IX investigation into the junior high team was closed after the school board expelled for one semester two students, who admitted baptizing other players. The two expulsions are the only punishment that has been handed down by the Huntsville School Board for students involved in the incidents.

Decision makers in the case had recommended expelling the two students for one year, rather than a semester, and out-of-school suspension for five days for three boys who were alleged to have physically restrained players. 

When appealing the expulsion, one student admitted to baptizing other students but placed the blame on older students who he said had baptized him during the last basketball season. That blame opened an ongoing Title IX investigation into players on the varsity basketball team.

Because the board threw out all recommended punishment of out-of-school suspension for the three students, those students are continuing to participate in basketball practices and have been volunteers at pee wee sports camps this summer. 

Parents in the community have expressed outrage over the lack of transparency by the school district and the lack of punishment for all of the students involved. 

Madison County Residents Connect Coalition, a grassroots organization formed in response to what it considers a lack of punishment for students involved in the sexual assault allegations, held a strategic planning meeting last week to plan for action against the school board. It started an online petition calling for the resignation of the school board members. The group plans weekly meetings, according to organizer Patricia Mikkelson.