No Huntsville School District administrator will be charged for failing to contact the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline immediately after learning of sexual-abuse allegations, according to findings by Capt. Russell Alberts in a Madison County Sheriff’s Office incident report.

Because Alberts concluded the alleged sexual-abuse incidents did not provide “sexual gratification” and were peer-on-peer, he determined “there was not a requirement to report the incident to the Arkansas Child Abuse hotline.” 

Alberts wrote, “Incident was brought to attention of [Huntsville High School Principal] Roxanne Enix on 9 February 2021, who would have been the first mandated reporter having knowledge of the incident.” 

Enix said she learned the night of Feb. 9 that students on the junior high basketball team had been “baptizing” or “bean-dipping” teammates before and after ballgames for two years. 

“Baptisms” occurred when several players physically restrained teammates while other players undressed and placed their bare genitals in or on the restrained players’ faces, foreheads or in their hair. Players were also “bean-dipped,” which occurred when players placed their rectum on another player’s face or nose.

Multiple players were “baptized” or “bean-dipped” multiple times. One player whose parent is suing the district alleges her child was “baptized” or “bean-dipped” 14 times in one season. 

A criminal complaint was filed on Oct. 22, 2021, against former junior high school basketball coach Kaleb Houston, Superintendent Audra Kimball, Athletic Director Tom McCollough, and Enix for failure to report, alleging sexual-abuse incidents took place between late October 2020 through February 2021. 

Under Arkansas law, mandated reporters, which include the four administrators named in the criminal complaint, are required to notify the hotline if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been subjected to child maltreatment. Failure to report can be a Class A misdemeanor. 

According to Alberts, who investigated the complaint, child maltreatment does not involve acts by “the victims peers.”

Alberts turned his conclusions and report over to  Fourth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Matt Durrett, who said, “Essentially, we can’t file because the actions alleged didn’t fit the definition of child maltreatment. Reporting is required when there is reasonable cause to suspect ‘abuse, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or abandonment,’” Durrett said.

“Even though, in my opinion, the safest thing to do is to err on the side of caution and report anyway, I can’t prosecute if there isn’t a requirement to report,” Durrett said. 

After learning of the allegations on Feb. 9, Enix, who said she felt physically sick when the accusations were described to her, called McCollough informing him. McCollough called Kimball. 

On Feb. 22, the district began investigating the allegations with coaches, including Houston, and interviewing players. That night, Huntsville School Board President Danny Thomas also alerted Kimball to the allegations. In text messages obtained by The Record, Thomas and Kimball acknowledge the allegations as serious, with Thomas stating “if these parents wanted to get an attorney it’s a slam dunk I would think.” 

Kimball let Thomas know that the district took the allegations “very serious.”

Three days later, Kimball texted Huntsville School District Charles Harwell of Crouch, Harwell, Fryar, Ferner law firm, asking him if he would be available for a phone call. “We are dealing with a Title IX situation,” Kimball wrote. 

A formal Title IX investigation began Feb. 26. 

According to Alberts’ incident report, “Six Arkansas Child Abuse Hotlines were reported on 3/2/2021, all of which were screened out.”

Multiple parents of students involved have told The Record they called the hotline when they were made aware of the allegations in a Title IX report sent from the district to them. 

Kimball said she did not recall the exact date she called the hotline, but “I knew it had been reported multiple times. And so I did it again just to make sure something wasn’t missed. And I know it doesn’t seem like that, but I was really trying to do due diligence to make sure something wasn’t missed.” 

Kimball said she waited to call to the hotline because “at that point, we didn’t even know if this was accurate information. We didn’t know what we were dealing with. 

“And when I spoke to our attorney [Harwell], that was one of the things I asked, ‘Do you think this should [be] reported.’ And he said, ‘I think you have to know what you’re dealing with first,’” Kimball said. “His exact words were, ‘I think you have to know what you’re dealing with first.’”

In an earlier interview with The Record concerning the district’s failure to immediately call the hotline, Thomas said, “Isn’t that probably the right thing to do is to gather the information to find out what’s going on before you start jumping the gun?”

Kimball said she calls the hotline when the abuse concerns “adult to child and so in this particular situation … it is child to child and they’re the same age. So I think that’s why our minds didn’t go to the hotline because typically that’s child abuse from an adult,” Kimball said.

She acknowledged the district has learned a lot from the Title IX allegations and the investigations into them.

“I will always be diligent about reporting things I feel need to be reported,” Kimball said. 

Alberts and the MCSO were also made aware of the allegations in February through School Resource Officer Monica Blair, but also delayed investigating.

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

After The Record published reports of the allegations on June 10, the sheriff’s office reversed course and began investigating.

In an email exchange on June 21 with Harwell, Kimball stated 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 wrote. “I reminded him that the SRO 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. 

The MCSO completed its investigation into the some of the students last fall, but Durrett said he is not able to say the outcome of the investigation because it involved juveniles. 

During one Title IX investigation by the district, two students were suspended for one semester and three students had punishment completely thrown out by the school board for their involvement in the incidents. In another Title IX investigation, three additional students – one who was virtual, two who are no longer in the district – also received no punishment by the school for their involvement in the incidents. 

Fort Smith Attorney Joey McCutchen, whose client filed the criminal complaint, said he couldn’t comment on charges not being filed due to a court order in a pending court case.