The family of a Black high school football player in Dietrich, Idaho, filed a $10 million civil suit against school officials this month over racist abuse including an October rape by three White teammates.
The Washington Post reported today (May 25) that it received a copy of the suit from the Black student’s attorney and that the alleged perpetrators are facing sexual assault charges issued by the state’s attorney general. Two defendants, 18-year-old John R.K. Howard (pictured above) and 17-year-old Tanner Ward, were charged as adults. A16-year-old was charged as a minor and therefore unidentified. Howard and Ward could face life imprisonment under Idaho law.
Local publication MagicValley.com reported on Ward’s preliminary hearing in April. The Black student testified that the 16-year-old asked him for a hug after practice and was restrained and attacked after reciprocating. The civil suit says that Ward “physically forced a coat hanger into the Plaintiff’s rectum” before Howard kicked it multiple times. The Black student required hospitalization, according to the suit.
The civil suit names Dietrich High School and 11 employees as defendants. It alleges that they did not stop (and at times encouraged) racist abuse against the Black student, who is described in the suit as having “mental disorders including learning disabilities.” In one instance, Howard allegedly forced the victim to recite “Notorious KKK,” a racist rendering of a Notorious B.I.G. song. He is also accused of knocking the Black student unconscious during a fight as teammates and coaches surrounded them.
The alleged victim, adopted by a White family, is one of only a few Black students in the predominantly White school. He testified during Ward’s preliminary hearing that Ward and Howard gave him a “power wedgie” that tore his underwear on the day of the sexual assault. Ward’s attorney noted inconsistencies between the Black student and another teammate’s testimony, although the judge permitted the case to continue. Ward’s trial is scheduled for September.
Dietrich High School did not respond to the Post’s request for comment.