Perry elementary school officials failed to report abuse claims, lawsuit says

The parents of more than a dozen girls who claim they were molested by a teacher’s aide at a Perry elementary school have filed lawsuit against district officials.

Police said Arnold Cowen inappropriately touched 15 girls when he was a former teacher’s aide at Perry Upper Elementary School. He admitted to police that he had touched several girls for what might have been up to a year, officials said.

Cowen is free until a pretrial hearing in February.

Two other former Perry Upper Elementary School officials — former principal Kenda Miller and former math teacher Jeff Sullins — have been accused of failing to report initial claims made against Cowen. Court documents say the two didn’t report the allegations because they didn’t believe the students.

The lawsuit, which was filed Friday, alleges that the Perry Board of Education failed to provide a safe learning environment for its students and that the board and school district failed to provide its students with an environment free from sexual predators. The lawsuit also claims that Arnold inappropriately touched the 15 girls while on school grounds throughout the 2016-17 school year until he was removed from campus.

“The Perry Board of Education has failed its community and its taxpayers,” said Cameron Spradling, attorney for 15 of the girls named in the case. “This federal lawsuit will reveal the secrets of Perry, Oklahoma. It is time that sexual assault victims be taken seriously, especially our children.”

One of the allegations mentioned in the lawsuit says that a student told a teacher in December 2016 that Arnold had touched her, and the teacher allegedly told the girl to talk to Miller because “the principal needed to deal with it.” The lawsuit also claims that the girl’s parents also told Miller of Cowen’s misconduct and that she did not inform authorities.

The lawsuit includes several claims of students informing school administers who failed to report Cowen to police for…

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