Dietrich officials deny claims in sexual assault lawsuit

Dietrich school officials have formally denied most claims in a student sexual assault case, the Twin Falls Times-News reported Friday.

The district and its administration face a $10 million civil complaint — alleging that they knew or should have known about an escalating pattern of abuse directed at a black student. Three former Dietrich football teammates are charged with sexually abusing the student; in the alleged attack, the three white suspects restrained the victim and shoved a coat hanger into his anus.

In the district’s response, filed Thursday, officials say they received no complaint from the student until Oct. 23, the day after the alleged sexual attack.

“The district had policies enabling and encouraging students and their parents to report instances of bullying, harassment, abuse, hazing, etc., thereby creating an effective mechanism to stop such misconduct,” according to the response. “Until Oct. 23, 2015, neither plaintiff nor his family submitted any such complaint to any member of the district; and thereby failed to provide notice to the district that the alleged misconduct had occurred or was occurring, thereby depriving defendants of an opportunity to stop or prevent such misconduct.”

According to The Times-News, district officials conceded two points in the civil lawsuit. They said they realized the victim suffered a “wedgie” the day of the alleged sexual attack, and they knew of a drawing on a school chalkboard, depicting the black student riding in the back of a school bus.

Defendants in the civil suit include the school district; Superintendent Ben Hardcastle; Principal Stephanie Shaw; trustees Starr Olson, Brad Dotson, Benjamin Hoskisson, Kris Hubert and Perry Van Tassell; and football coaches Mike Torgensen, Bret Peterson, Rick Astle and Wayne Dill.

In other news, The Times-News reports a preliminary hearing in one criminal case has been delayed until July 29.

The hearing for John R.K. Howard of Keller, Texas, had been slated for Friday, The Times-News reported, but the state attorney general’s office requested the delay.

Howard faces a felony charge of forcible penetration with a foreign object.