School Sex Abuse Scandal Rocks Oklahoma Town20-Feb-2017
At least three people have been arrested in connection with sex abuse allegations at a Perry elementary school. Several girls from the Perry Upper Elementary School have accused a teacher's aide of sexually molesting them, and police say at least two school employees ignored them when they tried to tell what happened.
Arnold Cowen, 85, was a teacher's assistant at the school when he was arrested on January 27 after being accused of sexually molesting at least ten girls, aged 10-13 years old. He was subsequently charged with nearly two dozen felony sex crimes, including 18 counts of lewd acts to a child under 16, two counts of indecent proposals to a child under 16, and one count of possession of child pornography.
According to reports, Cowen admitted the molestation and identified seven victims by name and said that there were others whose names he did not know, but whom he could identify through pictures. He reportedly told police that he fondled the girls' breasts and touched their bodies inappropriately during class and in the hallways of the school.
While the allegations of sexual assault at the school are shocking enough on their own, the alleged failure of the school to protect the children is what has really rocked this town of about 5,000 people to its core.
After Cowen's arrest, police also arrested the school's principal, Kendra Miller, 51, and a classroom teacher, Jeffrey Sullins, 51, on complaints that they failed to report the alleged assaults after the girls complained that they were being molested by the teaching assistant.
Miller is charged with one count of failure to report abuse or neglect, and Sullins is charged with two counts. Failure to report abuse is a misdemeanor.
Miller reportedly admitted to police that she was aware of the allegations against Cowen, but that she did not take action. Police say the principal told
them, "We have had these allegations on Cowen before, but we determined they were fabricated by the students." Students say they told Miller about
the sexual contact, and she told them to give him fist-bumps or high-fives instead of hugs. The principal's attorney is asking a judge to dismiss the charge.
Sullins likewise told police that he did not notify DHS or law enforcement about the girls' allegations because he believed they were lying.
The Perry school board voted to suspend Superintendent Scott Chenoweth, but at a closed meeting last week, delayed taking further action against him.
Perry Assistant Police Chief Forrest Smith says that he believes the investigation will result in the discovery of more victims and will lead to further charges against Cowen. He also reported that he continues to investigate the possibility of other faculty and staff members who may have heard of the girls' complaints and declined to report them.
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