Dietrich school superintendent to resign after locker room assault

Superintendent Ben Hardcastle
Superintendent Ben Hardcastle

The superintendent at the center of the Dietrich High School locker room assault case said he will step down at the end of the school year.

Superintendent Ben Hardcastle made the announcement Thursday, according to the (Twin Falls) Times-News.

“I have an opportunity that is in the best interest of my family, and the Dietrich School Board has graciously accepted my resignation effective at the end of this contract year,” he wrote in a statement to the newspaper.

Hardcastle, who wasn’t available for further comment, and the district have come under fire for their handling of an October 2015 attack in a Dietrich football locker room that targeted a black, mentally disabled player. Both an attorney general’s investigation and Hardcastle’s own inquiry showed a culture of bullying and possible racism that was widespread on the team.

The incident sparked national outrage from people who saw it as an injustice for the victim, especially after 19-year-old John R.K Howard, the only person charged criminally as an adult in the case, was sentenced to probation on Feb. 24. Witnesses said Howard kicked a coat hanger that was lodge in the victim’s buttocks.

Hardcastle’s resignation statement didn’t mention the incident.

“I am extremely grateful to the community of Dietrich for the great trust that you have shown me in allowing me to serve the school district,” he wrote in the statement.

The Associated Press reported last week that Hardcastle began his own investigation of the locker room incident before notifying the local sheriff’s office. On Tuesday, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden told the Times-News that the superintendent’s investigation didn’t influence the criminal probe.

Hardcastle is one of several district employees named as defendants in an ongoing civil suit brought by the disabled boy’s parents, who are seeking $10 million in damages.

Hardcastle, who started as Dietrich superintendent in July 2015, began his as an eighth-grade U.S. history teacher at an inter-city school in Houston. He also coached football, track and soccer and was voted Teacher of the Year at Hoffman Middle School during the 2009-10 school year.

Hardcastle moved to Gooding and taught sixth-grade geography for one year. He worked for three years as Gooding Middle School principal and then became Gooding High’s principal.

In November 2014, while at Gooding High, Hardcastle was placed on leave for two days after challenging then-Superintendent Mary Larson over a plagiarism issue with the employee handbook.