UPDATE: (CHATTANOOGA - WRCB) Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith asked school board members Thursday for an exit buyout, and the board accepted Smith's resignation.
Sources tell WRCB-TV that Smith could request a payment of $275,000 plus benefits that include sick day payments, resulting in a total package of around $350,000.
Smith has come under fire in recent weeks for his handling of the Dec. 22 Ooltewah High basketball rape/assault, which occurred in Gatlinburg.
Smith was criticized for a delayed public response, false reports of a gag order from Sevier County authorities, and a failure to report the crime, which resulted in charges against three Ooltewah staff members who were in Gatlinburg at the time of the incident. Critics have also complained about the team playing four additional games after the incident, and the school staffers being allowed to work until charges were filed.
Smith is under contract through July 2019, at almost $200,000 per year plus benefits. Some board members are against any buyout, but are unsure if Smith is guilty of any wrongdoing that could be used to void his contract. Others are said to be in favor of a quick exit, believing Smith's image has taken a beating, and the community has lost confidence in his leadership.
As Hamilton County educators plot their future, area victims advocates are addressing what should have been done in the Ooltewah case.
Catherine Oaks, services coordinator for the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee, works to support victims by providing counseling through therapy and support group.
She said in situations like the Ooltewah case, the failure by adults to report an incident can jeopardize the victim's sense of safety.
"It's very difficult for a victim of sexual violence to be able to speak about what's happened to them," Oaks said. "It can be re-traumatizing."
Amy Dilworth, executive director at the Family Justice Center, adds that any person who sees signs of abuse must speak up because everyone has the responsibility to report these kinds of incidents.
"They should have immediately called the police in that situation," she said.
PREVIOUS STORY: (WBIR) A Hamilton County Juvenile Court judge denied a request Thursday to drop charges against three men accused of failing to report the sexual assault of four freshmen Ootlewah High School basketball players.
WRCB reports Judge Rob Philyaw denied the motion to dismiss charges against Ooltewah High School athletic director Jesse Nayadley, head coach Andrew Montgomery and assistant coach Karl Williams.
According to District Attorney Neal Pinkston's office, all four victims told investigators they were beaten with pool cues while in Gatlinburg in December, and that they later each were sexually assaulted with a pool cue.
Three players on the Ooltewah boys varsity basketball team are charged in Sevier County with the rape and assault of a younger player. The incident happened Dec. 22 while the team was staying at a Gatlinburg cabin while playing in a pre-Christmas basketball tournament.
Preliminary hearings for Nayadley, Montgomery and Williams are set for Feb. 15.