Tim Christensen, superintendent of Greene County Community schools, explains some of the changes to the district's student code of conduct that school board members unanimously gave initial approval to Wednesday night.David Ohrt, vice president of the Greene County Community school board, encourages the community to unite Wednesday night despite differing opinions on how the district has handled the high school star basketball player's alleged rape of a former student.

New punishment policy would apply to alleged rapist

Potential change would give the superintendent broad authority to punish athletes who commit serious crimes


The Greene County High School basketball star who allegedly raped a former student in August could face further sports suspension if he is found delinquent of the crime in juvenile court, the school district’s superintendent said Wednesday.

With a policy change the district’s school board unanimously approved that night, Superintendent Tim Christensen would have the power to bench athletes indefinitely if a “student is found guilty of a serious criminal offense.”

The board is expected to vote again on the policy change next month to put it into effect.

But Christensen said during the board meeting that it’s preferable to keep students in sports and other activities — rather than bench them — to help the students excel in life.

“If you look at statistics, students that are involved in activities — grade-point is higher, attendance at school is higher, lots of things are higher,” he said.

Kerri True-Funk, a sexual-assault victims advocate in Des Moines, said school leaders’ emphasis on keeping the boy on the basketball court is wrong-headed.

“It sounds like the school is only looking at the impact from his position, and not from the young woman’s position,” said True-Funk, associate director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “That really sends the message that what we’re worried about is his athletic career, and not about our students being safe. The other students at the high school, especially other young women, are aware there is an alleged rapist walking their halls.

“He’s there. He’s playing ball. He can pretty much come and go as he pleases.”

Trey Tucker, 17, allegedly left a rural underage drinking party with a recent Greene County graduate in the early morning hours of Aug. 23. The two went to a nearby hay barn, where Tucker allegedly ignored her denial of sex.

Tucker, who was 16 at the time, was arrested for felony sex abuse and initially faced up to 10 years of prison in adult district court, but a judge moved the case to juvenile court at Tucker’s request. It’s unclear when the case will conclude.

In a letter to the judge — one of 33 written to support the boy — Tucker’s basketball coach, Jeremie Hinote, wrote that Tucker had shed his “arrogant, cocky persona” since the incident and is now an active member of the church where Hinote’s father is the pastor.

“He needs to be out there telling his story of the young man he is becoming,” Hinote wrote of Tucker.

The boy also joined the high school football team not long after the alleged assault, which some say was a move to avoid punishment during the basketball season.

The new school policy that board members approved Wednesday would forbid future students from doing the same. Had the new policy been in effect when Tucker was accused of the crime, he would have been ineligible to play games for the entire football season and would have been held out of one-quarter of the regular basketball season games.

One board member insinuated Tucker took advantage of a “loophole” in the policy, to which Tucker’s father, Tim Tucker, responded that the board member should be “very careful” about using that word. He didn’t elaborate on the threat.

True-Funk, the victims advocate, said school administrators are sometimes paralyzed by the fear of litigation if they punish a student too harshly.

“There are a lot of misplaced fears that perpetrators are going to sue schools,” she said. “They don’t worry about victims suing.”

School board member David Ohrt lamented the ambiguities of the case and cited them as a cause of division among the town’s residents.

Board members have not interviewed Tucker or his alleged victim about the incident, they said, because had Tucker appealed his football suspension to the board they would have to recuse themselves if they knew details of the case.

And Christensen didn’t seek an extended school suspension or expulsion for Tucker, which typically triggers a series of school board interviews with the people involved in alleged violations.

Christensen did not talk to the former student about her allegations as he decided Tucker’s punishment, he said after the Wednesday meeting.

“She’s no longer a student here,” he explained.

Board member Ohrt pleaded at-length during the meeting for the town to unite and find better ways to teach children how to live, rather than “point fingers and blame other people.”

“My first reaction to what happened was probably like yours — I was angry and upset,” he said. “In my job I teach people that the anger has something else underneath of it ... what’s underneath of it is incredible sadness.

“As coaches, when we tell our kids to be more aggressive on the court — do we tell them there’s a difference between aggression on the court and aggression in relationships? That’s an important thing to teach.

“Are we doing the best we can as a school to prevent bullying? Are we teaching our kids how to live in a community and in our school system? Are we teaching them about empathy and how to be safe in our world?”

The school board meets again Jan. 20.

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