Three Dietrich Idaho football players have been charged with the sexual assault of a disabled teammate stemming from an event last fall in the school locker room.
The federal lawsuit was filed May 13, accusing the Dietrich High School football team’s coaches and school officials of being aware of months of verbal taunts and physical abuse but doing nothing to prevent them, the Associated Press reports.
The accusations and lawsuit have unsettled the small town of Dietrich, which has only 330 residents, reports the Washington Post. Most of the residents are white.
“A few years ago, some kids broke into the one little store we have in town; that was our big crime wave in Dietrich,” Mayor Don Heiken tells the Post. “We’ve never seen anything like this. No one knows how to deal with it, what to make of it.”
Prosecutors say the attack occurred last October. John Howard, 18, and another student, Tanner Ward, 17, were charged March 4 in adult court with felony forcible penetration by use of a foreign object, the AP reports. A third player was charged as a juvenile.
Howard and Ward could face life in prison if convicted.
According to the Post, the lawsuit states that after a practice in October, a player held his arms out toward the victim, acting as if he wanted a hug. The player is accused of grabbing the victim and bending him over, and another player then forced a coat hanger into the victim’s rectum.
A third player is accused of kicking the hanger to force it deeper into the player’s rectum.
“The plaintiff screamed and cried out but no staff member came to his assistance or even attempted to investigate the clamor within the locker room,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit says the victim, who is 18 years old and the adopted son of two white parents, had endured months of racial slurs and bullying from white teammates before the attack. Among the incidents, a teen is accused of teaching the victim a song associated with the Ku Klux Klan and forcing him to recite it in front of a computer image of the Confederate flag. The lawsuit also claims a student beat the victim unconscious during a summer training camp in front of staff and other players.
The lawsuit says the victim has mental disorders that include learning disabilities. The victim’s father is a teacher at the school, the Post reports.
The school district has not commented on the lawsuit, reports say.