Local women will have an opportunity this week to gain skills in protecting themselves from assault.
The Blount County Sheriff’s Office will conduct a 12-hour Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) course from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Aug. 4-6 at the Blount County Justice Center, 940 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Maryville. It’s open to ages 13 and up; no prior training is required, and the class is free, but minors must be accompanied by an adult.
Organizers are enrolling until the course starts, but class size is limited. Face coverings are optional.
“The dynamic, hands-on program was designed for the average woman, and basic self-defense techniques are taught in an enjoyable format,” BCSO said in a Facebook post July 21.
The class is taught by Deputies Magahan Mattocks and Elizabeth Montgomery. Mattocks, an almost seven-year veteran of BCSO, has been involved with the RAD program for five years after taking the class and falling in love with it, she said in an interview.
The class teaches women to defend themselves both in standing and on-the-floor positions. During sessions, BCSO instructors only teach RAD material; they don’t add anything else, as RAD is its own entity with instructors outside of the law enforcement realm.
Instructors have to be schooled themselves in teaching RAD before they are allowed to do so. Mattocks completed her RAD instruction at the University of Tennessee.
Another key part of the class is the “aggressor,” whom attendees fight during their training. Those wanting to play that role also must be certified, as is a local Alcoa Police officer, who sometimes helps with BCSO’s classes, Mattocks said.
Mattocks tries to teach RAD at least four times a year; she estimated BCSO has been hosting RAD programming for 15-plus years, about the same amount of time she herself has been in law enforcement.
And through her career experience, Mattocks is well aware of the benefits RAD holds.
“We teach self-awareness,” Mattocks said. “We teach self-esteem. We work on becoming more aware of your surroundings. We work on, obviously, self-defense moves.”
As a RAD instructor, Mattocks has taught women ranging from 13 years old, the youngest age group allowed, to those in their 70s. Attendees 13-17 must have consent from a guardian to take the class, due to some of the material covered.
“RAD really touches every age group,” Mattocks said. “And the moves are very non-specific. They’re not only meant for somebody who is completely in shape and physically on top of their game. It’s basic moves that anybody can do.”
One positive of taking the class is that it allows women to feel confident in being able to protect themselves from attackers, she said.
“If you’re not a victim of a rape or an assault, it brings good self-esteem. It brings good balance in your life. It brings the ability to think, ‘I can take care of myself ... (and with) simple moves, I can save myself,’” Mattocks said.
Those who are assault victims often blame themselves and fall into a tragic cycle, sometimes not even being able to take care of themselves, Mattocks said. RAD programming can help them, too, she noted.
“It’s really a good character-building (activity) for someone who went through that kind of tragedy, to kind of take back some of their life, get some of that ownership back,” Mattocks said.
To enroll in the course or for more information, contact Mattocks at 865-223-4301.
Maryville College students interested in pursuing a medical degree now can gain clinical research experience with mentoring physicians through a new collaboration between Maryville College and the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
CRISP — Clinical Research Internship Study Program — is headed by Dr. Robert Miller, who retired from the Mayo Clinic after 25 years of service. After moving to East Tennessee, he was recruited by the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville to serve as medical director of its Division of Radiation Oncology.
Miller reached out to faculty members in Maryville College’s Division of Natural Sciences and Division of Behavioral Sciences to work with him in establishing this internship program, which is similar to one he directed at the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic.
“My experiences with liberal arts pre-medical students have shown them to uniformly be excellent writers and critical thinkers,” said Miller, who first learned of Maryville College while house hunting in Maryville. “We’re doing our review manuscript on ‘Disparities in Cancer Care in Appalachia.’ It’s a bit more humanities-focused in that it looks at the gaps, where are the bad outcomes, and how do we tie that to the cultural, economic and social history of Appalachia.”
The first internship program was held June 14 through July 23.
“The purpose is to expose the students to medical research and some of the larger issues in cancer care ... and evolving areas of research,” Miller said.
The students are writing a review paper on disparities in cancer care in the Appalachians and a case report on a rare cancer that they will present virtually at an upcoming national oncology conference.
“The program is a six-week course, all virtual still due to COVID-19 still, where each week the students get two short reading assignments on a cancer-related topic and we discuss their thoughts on the papers at one of twice-a-week meetings,” Miller said. “I also connect them with a medical student or medical resident-in-training each week to get their perspectives on what the students should be doing to get into medical school. I also connect them with one more senior, but generally early career, doctor in practice.”
Kaelyn Finnegan, a May graduate of Maryville College with bachelor’s degrees in neuroscience and biochemistry, and Nadia St. Thomas, a biochemistry major with plans to graduate in spring 2022, were the inaugural interns. Both plan to become doctors, Finnegan a neurologist.
“I really wanted to add something like this to my resume for applying to medical school,” Finnegan said. “Since starting the program, my interest has shifted from more of an ‘I need to do this for my resume, and radiology research can be cool’ stance to genuine interest.”
The research focuses on the intersectionality of health, with a focus on cancer, and the historical/cultural/social/economical influences in Appalachia, she said. This approach appeals to Finnegan, who said, “I adore history, and as someone who graduated with a degree in the behavioral sciences, I’m also really fascinated by culture and the societal influence on things.”
St. Thomas was interested in the CRISP internship because of the opportunity to connect with medical professionals, to learn how to write scholarly scientific publications and to apply the skills she has learned at Maryville College to the real world of medicine and research.
As part of the internship, Finnegan is writing a paper, titled “Appalachian Cancer Disparities from a Cultural and Historical Perspective,” with St. Thomas contributing as co-author.
“The research topic of health disparities in Appalachia will be tremendously helpful in medical school and in life because it has helped bring an awareness to the influences that factor into health and health disparities, which is a very real-world issue that is necessary to be aware of as a doctor and advocate,” Finnegan said.
St. Thomas said the internship will help her decide if radiology oncology is a field she is interested in, as well as whether she would prefer the research side of medicine over the patient care side.
St. Thomas is also completing an REU program — research experiences for undergraduates — at the University of Tennessee. “This is an opportunity for undergraduates to work in a graduate-level research lab,” she said. “My REU program is in environmental health and safety. It provides undergraduates with the opportunity to learn techniques and protocols from graduate students and post-docs in the lab. The program also teaches undergraduates how to use critical thinking and problem-solving while conducting meaningful research.”
Jennifer Brigati, who chairs the Division of Natural Sciences at MC, mentioned that the program is giving students interested in medical school or biomedical research an opportunity to complete a research project remotely.
“This is a wonderful option when many summer research programs were canceled both last summer and this summer due to uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “The students are working closely with the faculty and medical personnel at the UT Medical Center Division of Radiation Oncology, so they are creating valuable connections in the medical field.
“One of the most exciting aspects of this program is the possibility of the student’s research being published in an academic journal,” Brigati added. “Not many undergraduates have the opportunity to complete publishable research projects.”
Chemistry professor Angelia Gibson said, “Dr. Miller was gracious to share about his research and career path in a virtual STEM Success Seminar sponsored by the Scots Science Scholars this past year. His research is truly interdisciplinary, integrating particle physics, chemistry and biology with engineering in the application of proton therapy for cancer, and extending that to larger public health and sociological questions related to equity and access to quality health care in Appalachia. Students working on his team apply their liberal arts education, not only through the writing, communication and critical thinking that are integral components of all research, but also by considering how access to medical technology is shaped by history, economics and culture.”
Miller’s connection with East Tennessee is not new. “I was first introduced to my future career practicing radiation medicine during a visit to Oak Ridge’s Museum of Atomic Energy in 1972,” he said.
He practiced at the Mayo Clinic for 25 years and remains an emeritus professor. “Because of my background in atomic physics, I had a leadership role in Mayo’s particle therapy and was part of the team that built Mayo’s first proton center from 2005 to 2015. I then led the development of the particle therapy center being built in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2018 and 2019,” he said. “After leaving Mayo, I ran the University of Maryland Proton Therapy Treatment Center in Baltimore in 2019 and then through the pandemic as medical director.”
Miller officially began his work as medical director of UT Medical Center’s Division of Radiation Oncology on Jan. 1.
Even with a law enforcement officer on most campuses and cameras that can send live images to the Blount County E-911 Communications Center, local schools aren’t crime free.
In addition to thefts, vandalism and drugs, crimes on campus in recent years have included aggravated assault, “forcible fondling” and extortion.
In 2019, 80 school crime offenses in Blount County resulted in an arrest, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
TBI publishes an annual statewide school crime study based on information law enforcement agencies are required to submit through the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System.
The Daily Times requested from TBI information specific to Blount County, and received data based on reports from the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Maryville Police Department, Alcoa Police Department and Fifth Judicial Drug Task Force for 2018-20. With students and staff on campus fewer days in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the numbers are lower for that calendar year.
The newspaper requested further information from the agencies and public school districts, and this article is the first in a three-part series. Monday’s article will look at Maryville City Schools and Tuesday’s at Alcoa City Schools.
The numbers require more detail to provide an accurate picture.
For example, BCSO reported 173 school crime offenses in 2019, but BCSO explained an administrative error resulted in five incidents involving eight crimes being reported twice.
One BCSO arrest was reported twice in 2019, so that makes the total across all agencies in the county 79.
A weapons law violation reported in the 2020 school crime data occurred on Election Day, when school was not in session. A man posted a picture of himself holding a pistol with an “I Voted” sticker on it in the parking lot of Townsend Elementary School, a polling location.
BCSO said school security footage showed the man did not enter the school with the gun or point it at anyone, and the district attorney’s office declined to prosecute him.
After correcting the errors, BCSO reported 164 crimes on school campuses in 128 incidents during 2019.
One incident with two crimes was at the private Maryville Christian School, with the others spread across 15 of the 21 Blount County Schools campuses. Six of the elementary schools had no reports.
The highest numbers of incidents were at the high schools, which have the largest enrollment. BCSO reported 44 crimes in 37 incidents at William Blount High School and 28 crimes in 23 incidents at Heritage High School.
BCSO reported 31 crimes in 22 incidents at Carpenters Middle School that year, and 15 crimes in 10 incidents at Carpenters Elementary. At the Samuel Everett School of Innovation, where several programs including the BCS alternative program are located, there were eight incidents with 12 crimes.
While some parents have claimed Heritage Middle School has a fight culture, it had only three school crime reports in 2019, the same number as Union Grove Middle.
Blount County Schools declined a request for an in-person or phone interview regarding the school crime reports and required questions to be submitted by email.
The response from Amanda Vance, supervisor of elementary instruction and district communications, did not address several specific questions. For example, she did not respond to questions about the relatively high numbers for CES and CMS.
“Our principals work in collaboration with SRO’s to ensure we provide the safest school environment possible,” she wrote.
In response to questions about the time and location of a 2018 rape report at William Blount, she wrote that the district attorney’s office “would not prosecute the case due to ‘no evidence to support prosecution in the matter.’”
Vance did not address specific questions about six school employees and a contractor who were victims of assault.
“This overall report is a record of the alleged crimes reported to and/or by the SRO’s, however, it does not clearly and distinctly report the outcome of the investigations and/or court decisions. This report can be misleading without all the facts and context of each incident and report,” Vance wrote.
In clarifying its 2019 school crime data, BCSO explained one incident was inadvertently reported as a school crime because it was reported to an SRO but did not occur on campus.
“In terms of the school response, our principals investigate all reported incidents and alleged offenses on our campuses. They follow our BOE (board of education) policies for student code of conduct and appropriate action is taken to ensure the safety and well-being of our students and staff.
“Our top priority is providing a safe and healthy learning environment for all students and staff. We are proud of our administrators and the BCSO SRO’s who serve our school community and provide safe schools for our students and staff,” Vance’s email reply said.
In 2019, BCSO reported 68 school crime offenses “cleared by arrest,” which could mean the person was taken into custody or received a citation.
A 12-year-old was charged with two aggravated assault offenses, and a 14-year-old also was charged with aggravated assault that year. Among 18 for simple assault, two incidents involved two offenders.
Nineteen were for drug or narcotics violations.
A 14-year-old was charged with extortion or blackmail, and a 15-year-old with fraud/impersonation.
The largest numbers of school crime offenses BCSO reported in 2019 were the 53 involving simple assault and 40 for intimidation.
Threatening to fight someone after school could be considered a crime of intimidation if the threat was reasonably believed to be credible, according to BCSO.
Twenty-seven offenses were for drugs, mostly marijuana. That includes 11 reports for marijuana at William Blount, four at Heritage, four at Everett, two at Eagleton Middle School and one at Carpenters Middle School.
One case listed in the school crime reports involved an adult woman who walked through the back of the EMS campus and was stopped by the SRO, who found she had heroin, BCSO said.
The sheriff’s office, in coordination with BCS administration, sometimes takes dogs trained in narcotics detection into the schools.
BCSO reported four cases of “pornographic/obscene material” in 2019, all students accused of distributing photos via online apps such as AirDrop, Snapchat, TikTok and Likee. Those cases were handled through juvenile court.
In 2019, a 10-year-old threatened another student with a pocket knife. “Due to his age, and with the consent of the guardian of the victim, the school handled all discipline,” BCSO said.
A CMS student who threatened to stab two students with a sharpened pencil in 2019 received a citation to juvenile court. Because there were two victims, that shows up as two crimes in the reports, but not a weapons law violation. As BCSO explained, “Although use of a sharpened pencil as a weapon is a crime, mere possession of a sharpened pencil in school is generally considered a good thing, and is not a weapons violation.”
In 2020 when a student younger than 10 brought a pocket knife to school in a backpack and showed it to another student, that was reported as a weapons law violation. The district attorney’s office opted not to bring a criminal charge against the youngster, and the school handled discipline for the incident, BCSO said.
Six school employees were victims of simple assault, according to BCSO, as well as a bus driver and three adult visitors to a school campus.
BCSO reported 16 offenders younger than 10 in 2019, seven involving assault, seven intimidation, one forcible fondling and one for destruction, damage or vandalism.
Among the 18 alleged offenders over the age of 18, eight were school employees, seven for simple assault and one for forcible fondling, but BCSO said none faced criminal charges.
Seven of the other alleged offenders over 18 weren’t students or employees. BCSO said those included adults attending nighttime athletic events and “unknown cybercrime offenders believed to be nonstudent adults.”
A William Blount student was arrested on an arson charge in 2019, BCSO said, because he set fire in a bathroom trash can.
In another 2019 case, a student was arrested and charged with extortion/blackmail after threatening to send naked photos of another student to others if she did not continue their relationship. That situation also showed up in the reports as a pornography/obscene material incident.