NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Parent in Norman North assault case sues school district

NORMAN — The father of a boy police say was sexually assaulted by members of the Norman North wrestling team claims in a lawsuit that lax supervision led to his son being attacked three times during a school trip.

The parent filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Norman Public Schools in Cleveland County District Court, claiming his 12-year-old son sustained "bodily harm and emotional distress" as a result of the attacks. The assaults allegedly happened on a bus on the way back from a school-sanctioned trip to a wrestling tournament in Pauls Valley and in the high school parking lot in January 2016.

"Although the defendant school district had assigned coaches/employees and/or other agents to supervise members of the wrestling team during the school-sanctioned event, the district's agents negligently failed to supervise them and negligently failed to provide adequate protection," the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit also says the school district failed to provide adequate training to staff, which could have prevented or stopped the incident.

Norman Public Schools said it is aware of the lawsuit, but cannot comment.

"Upon notification of the incident, we took immediate action and suspended the students involved, dismissed a volunteer adjunct coach and suspended a second coach pending the investigation, who then resigned," said Alesha Leemaster, a spokeswoman for the district.

The Oklahoman is not naming the father who filed the lawsuit in order to avoid identifying the alleged victim in the case.

Attorneys for the father declined to comment.

Two boys, ages 16 and 12 at the time of the incidents, were allegedly assaulted by upperclassmen during the wrestling tournament trip, according to police. Younger wrestlers were on the bus during the Norman North trip because the junior varsity team included middle-school students.

Police claim four Norman North High School wrestlers accused in the attack used their fingers to perpetrate multiple sexual assaults on their teammates on a school bus and in a parking lot during the trip.

A psychologist who evaluated three of the four wrestlers accused in the case said in a report to the court that students' behavior was part of a wrestling tradition known as "daunching," "oil check" or "goosing."

The four wrestlers were initially charged in February 2016 with rape by instrumentation. However, the cases against all but one of the students have been moved to juvenile court or dismissed entirely.

Attorney Elton Jenkins said in January that one of the wrestlers, Sage Griffen Gandenberger, 17, no longer faces three counts of rape by instrumentation stemming from the incident.

Gandenberger was originally charged as an adult with three felony counts of rape by instrumentation. But a Garvin County judge last year dismissed those charges and moved the case to juvenile court, where records are sealed.

Two other defendants, Chase Denton Smith, 16, and Hunter Oren Matthews, 17, also were charged as adults with three felony rape by instrumentation counts, but their charges also were dropped and the cases moved to juvenile court. The status of charges against Smith and Matthews was unclear on Thursday. Their attorneys could not be reached.

Tanner Shane Shipman, 18, still faces three felony counts of rape by instrumentation. His case is scheduled for a preliminary hearing conference April 6 in Garvin County District Court.

Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey joined The Oklahoman in January 2013 as a business writer. During her time at The Oklahoman, she has walked across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to-south down Western Avenue, and once east-to-west, tracing the old U.S. Route 66.... Read more ›

NewsOK has disabled the comments for this article.