Chattanooga Public Schools
Two separate incidents in late 2022 at southwest Oklahoma's Chattanooga Public Schools have left some members of the community feeling frustrated. (Bennett Brinkman)

CHATTANOOGA — Two separate incidents causing harm to students in the final quarter of 2022 have left some members of this southwest Oklahoma community on edge, and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is looking into one of the events, which involved members of the Chattanooga junior high boys basketball team allegedly attacking a teammate with the handle of a toilet plunger in December.

Nearly two months earlier, the Chattanooga high school Future Farmers of America president reported that an altercation with the high school girls basketball coach had resulted in him sustaining a fractured ankle. That coach, Tyler Karr, is the brother of Billy Karr, who coaches the junior high school boys team that was allegedly left unsupervised during a game in Cyril when the plunger attack occurred.

The criminal investigation, rumors and social media criticism has left some parents of the 245-student school district worried about their kids’ safety. Dozens of parents and students crowded the school auditorium during a meeting of the Chattanooga Public Schools Board at 7 a.m. Thursday.

“People go to a small school like that so they don’t have to worry about the big-city settings,” said Jimmy, the parent of a 7-year-old Chattanooga elementary student who declined to state his last name.

Augustus Neal is the FFA president in Chattanooga, a 400-person community about 25 miles southwest of Lawton along the Comanche County border. A high school junior, Neal said Tyler Karr, called TK by students, grabbed and injured his ankle while they were riding in an ATV.

According to Neal, the fact that so many people attended Thursday’s school board meeting shows the rising tension in the town.

“Nobody ever usually comes,” Neal said. “The school’s had a history of letting things happen. Something happens — they don’t want to do anything about it — they kind of just brush it under the rug when people talk about it. And so with these two incidents, I think people’s point is like, ‘If y’all would have handled all of the smaller things that happened, we wouldn’t be where we are now, with people thinking they can get away with stuff like breaking a kid’s ankle or raping someone.’ And so I think that was the big message with everybody showing up.”

A senior at the school had a similar assessment of the crowded board meeting.

“They’re there — excuse my language — because they’re pissed,” said Kayetlynn Numley. “They’re there because they want to know whether this coach is going to be in their school or not, that way they can pull their students out of the school.”

Fractured ankle case reported, not charged

Augustus Neal has been the president of the Future Farmers of America chapter at Chattanooga Public Schools. (Provided)

Neal’s ankle injury occurred late Sunday, Oct. 23, and sparked the initial outcry within the community this fall. During an 11 p.m. ATV ride with coach Tyler Karr and a district mother, who was driving the vehicle, Neal said Karr twisted his ankle, causing it to fracture.

The details of the event were recorded in a Chattanooga police report filed by Neal. In the report, Chattanooga officer Rob Stallcup writes that a Comanche County deputy sheriff originally took the report while Stallcup was out of town.

From the report:

At approximately 22:40 on 10/23/22 Neal, Augustus (A. Neal) and [another student] were doing homework at her house when they discovered that they were missing a homework assignment. Karr, Daniel (D. Karr) was asked to let them in the school so they could get their homework. [The female student], her mom (…), A. Neal and D. Karr drove to D. Karr’s house on a side-by-side ATV to get the keys to the school. While en-route, A. Neal cursed at [his friend’s mother] due to her driving. D. Karr told A. Neal not to speak to adults that way. A. Neal and D. Karr began to horseplay and D. Karr grabbed A. Neal’s wrist. A. Neal then removed one of his sandals and was hitting D. Karr. D. Karr then grabbed A. Neal’s ankle. When A. Neal said ouch, D. Karr let go of his ankle. Later that night A. Neal’s ankle began to swell and hurt. A. Neal’s mother Kari Neal took him to the hospital. After x-rays were taken A. Neal was diagnosed with “minimally displaced fracture of the medial malleolus.”

Neal also described the situation to NonDoc, saying that Karr and his friend’s mother had been drinking together the night of the ATV ride.

“He pulled my leg across me and started bending my foot towards my shin,” Neal said. “And I was begging him to stop. I was like, ‘Please let go, that hurts. Please let go, please let go,’ and he wouldn’t. Well, finally, he jolted it sideways and that’s when I felt it pop.”

Neal, who is called Gus by some town residents, said he eventually had surgery on his ankle, and he still walks with a limp.

Stallcup, the Chattanooga police officer, said he gave his report of the incident to two different district attorneys, both of whom declined to prosecute the case owing to lack of “criminal intent.”

“Stories start differentiating there as far as how long and how much pressure was placed on [Neal’s ankle],” Stallcup said. “But the other three witnesses said that Gus said, ‘Ow,’ and the coach let go.”

Neal’s mother, Kari, was not present at the time of the incident, but she was listed as a witness on the police report, and she spoke on her son’s behalf at the school board meeting.

“The aftermath of this incident has altered the state of his mental health along with his comfort at school,” Kari Neal said during the meeting’s public comment period. “My son no longer feels safe or welcome at the school he has attended since pre-K. The lunch room, which once was a place for socializing and laughter, now gives him severe anxiety attacks, due to having to watch [Coach Daniel Tyler Karr] sit alongside the administration and act as if nothing happened.”

Some members of the community felt it had been inappropriate for Karr to be with Neal at all on Oct. 23 because he had been drinking alcohol that night.

“The coach did admit that he had been drinking,” Stallcup said. “As far as (his) intoxication level, nobody really knows. There’s no way of knowing about it, but the coach did tell me that he had had a couple of beers.”

Augustus Neal said that, after the incident, some members of the community began to ostracize him, feeling that he was trying to cause problems for Karr, who coaches girls basketball and softball and teaches elementary physical education.

Neal said Monday that he will not attend Chattanooga public schools for the spring semester.

Karr, whose full name is Daniel Tyler Karr, does not appear to be a certified teacher, according to state records.

Chattanooga Public Schools Superintendent Jerry Brown declined to answer questions about the situations facing his district, but he did provide a statement.

“About two months ago, we did receive a report of an off-campus incident involving the softball coach where it was reported that a student was injured while in the company of the coach and other persons,” Brown said. “The matter was reported to law enforcement who declined to file charges. I cannot give any specific details about any confidential personnel matters, but I can say that the coach is still employed and working with the district.”

Karr did not return a phone call seeking comment.

According to the agenda for the Jan. 5 school board meeting, members discussed Karr’s employment in executive session. However, they took no action, and Brown declined to discuss details about the conversations.

Both Stallcup and Neal said that some members of the board meeting’s audience, including most of the girls basketball team, attended to show their support for Karr.

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OSBI investigating possible sexual assault

Chattanooga Public Schools
Members of Chattanooga’s school board head to executive session at a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2022. (Bennett Brinkman)

Far fewer details are known about reports of a possible sexual assault that is alleged to have occurred while the Chattanooga junior high boys and girls basketball teams were playing in Cyril, a 1,000-person town located around 30 miles northeast of Lawton.

Stallcup said he quickly referred that incident, which occurred Dec. 15 and involves students on the boys junior high basketball team, to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Owing to the ongoing investigation, Stallcup declined to provide details or address rumors in town that multiple students had held another student down and had assaulted him with the handle of a plunger.

“Some people claim it was kids being kids and harassing another kid, but I tend to think it’s a little bit more serious than that,” Stallcup said.

Stallcup said junior high boys basketball team members were left unsupervised because their coach, Billy Karr, who is Tyler Karr’s brother, was assisting his brother with coaching the girls basketball game.

Brown, the district’s superintendent, also provided a statement about the Dec. 15 incident.

“We received a report of possible bullying or harassment that happened in the boys’ locker room on Dec. 15, 2022,” Brown said. “We contacted law enforcement and the Department of Human Services as required by law. We are currently doing a Title IX investigation and cooperating with law enforcement in their investigation. The safety and security of our students is our highest priority.”

The two incidents, however, have some members of the community on edge and afraid to send their children to school. Jimmy, the parent of the 7-year-old who attends the town’s elementary school, said his and others’ confidence in the school district was “shaken.”

“I want to know that my child’s going to be OK,” he said. “I feel like right now, she’s possibly OK, but then there’s my question where — what’s to say that she didn’t have a bad day and cop an attitude, and [Tyler Karr is] having a bad day?”

Stallcup said that the district had implemented some changes to address community fears.

“Both coaches were on the bench — there was not a coach or a faculty member or adult in the locker room when this incident happened,” Stallcup said of the alleged Dec. 15 assault. “So I think they have taken actions to prevent this in the future. But as far as their safety goes, I don’t believe that there is a justified fear for the kids’ safety.”

Another community member, Dallas Geis, addressed the situation in the public comment period before the school board.

“[District policies] created an environment that allowed students’ inappropriate behavior to escalate to a point far beyond inappropriate physical contact on 12-15-22 in Cyril,” Geis said. “It was an abhorrent act documented by video and disseminated by social media, of which a member of the administration was made aware of and shown shortly after the incident.”

At the end of his speech, Geis pleaded for accountability from board members.

“Our school is the linchpin that holds this community together,” Geis said. “The absence of holding administrators, teachers and students accountable for their actions — regardless of name and perceived rank in the community — has led to this point in time.”

In a Dec. 16 post on Facebook, Augustus Neal offered a similar sentiment that he punctuated with #ProtectTheKids.

“When is enough, enough? This is a question that needs to be answered. There’s not a damn reason why I or others should feel unsafe, unwelcomed, or uncomfortable while at school. However, some of us do. I don’t want to be there, and I know of several others that don’t either. This has been an ongoing problem, it has only just recently gotten worse. Our school continues to fail us. When is enough, enough?” Neal wrote. “I would also like to know, why is no one held accountable for their actions? Just a lil slap on the hand so they can do it again. No REAL consequences. The things happening within our school right now are so incredibly disgusting. I have never been so embarrassed to be from a place. I have no words.”