DIETRICH, Idaho -- A school district investigation into allegations that a mentally-disabled black teenager was raped with a hanger in the Dietrich High School locker room concluded it was "more likely than not" the teen had been the victim of sexual assault and attacks by his football teammates.
The finding came after Superintendent Benjamin Hardcastle and Principal Stephanie Shaw conducted 30 interviews with students, parents and coaches at the school and reviewed footage from a surveillance camera outside the locker room. The investigative report was made public Thursday along with witness statements and other documents by lawyers for the teen's family.
According to the documents, Hardcastle and Shaw began their investigation Oct. 23 after the teen's mother told them her son had been assaulted.
"We found evidence of misconduct among students that include sexual harassment, bullying behavior and sexual assault," Hardcastle wrote.
The documents were filed in court as part of a request by attorneys representing the victim in a $10 million civil case against the district. E. Lee Schlender, one of the lawyers for the teen's family, said they want a judge to release information that had been redacted by attorneys for the school district, including the names of the students who wrote witness reports.
"The redactions render the documents useless," he said.
The alleged rape happened Oct. 22, 2015 in the locker room. According to the civil suit, one boy offered the victim a hug, then forcibly held him still while another student, identified as 18-year-old John R.K. Howard - inserted a plastic hanger into his rectum. A third student, 17-year-old Tanner Ward, is accused of kicking the hanger, forcing it further into the victim's body.
The school district's report also ruled it is "possible" that one of the students present told the attackers to stop, but "[name redacted] responded by saying something to the effect, 'Shut up or I'll do the same to you.'"
Ward, Howard, and the other student were charged criminally by the Idaho Attorney General's Office. Howard has pleaded not guilty to forcible sexual penetration. Ward and the other boy were charged as juveniles, and their cases have concluded. The outcome of the juvenile cases will not be made public.
The victim's parents have said the attack with the hanger was not the first time their son was targeted by his white teammates.
According to the civil suit, the teen was depicted on a whiteboard as riding in the back of a bus, and subjected to racial taunts, including being called "Kool-Aid," "chicken-eater," "watermelon" and the N-word.
Hardcastle wrote in the report that the district "found evidence of comments made on occasion about food etc. that [victim] likes that can have racial implications."
The superintendent also noted the teen's mother "shared that she feels that boys have played on the fact that [victim] cognitively does not understand the racial implications of the things that are said about fried chicken and grape soda."
The teen's mother also said she believed her son did not speak up about the abuse because he did not want to get his teammates in trouble.
The district's investigation also found it was "more likely than not" that a student grabbed the victim by his underwear and pulled upward until they ripped before practice Oct. 22, 2015. Also ruled "more likely than not" were allegations that students had "dry humped" or simulated having sex with the teen, including on the day of the attack with the hanger.
Schlender said the school's findings will not have an outsized impact on the civil case, which alleges school officials and coaches knew or should have known about the abuse, and failed to step in. The defendants have denied the claims.
"We look at [the findings] as evidence and something we want to know - something we need to know - but we do not look at it as something that is bearing on the outcome of the case," he said.
The attorney said the civil case will likely not be decided until after the conclusion of Howard's criminal case, in order for the lawyers to obtain evidence and materials from the attorney general's office.
Howard is due back in court Oct. 22.