An 86-year-old elementary school teacher’s aide from Oklahoma City is accused of molesting 15 girls. The school district in which he worked, Perry Independent School District, and its board of directors are now being sued in a federal lawsuit on behalf of those victims, for allegedly failing to protect their students.
CBS News reported that Arnold Cowen has pleaded not guilty to charges, which include possession of child pornography and 19 felony charges of committing lewd or indecent acts to a child. Police said they found over 100 pornographic images and videos at Cowen’s home.
The alleged abuse happened both this year and last year. Cowen was removed from his role as a volunteer at the school after parents complained to police.
Members of the school administration are also facing charges. Kenda Miller, the school’s former principal, and ex-teacher Jeffrey Sullins allegedly failed to report child abuse, and now they are facing misdemeanor charges for those alleged actions.
The federal lawsuit is accusing Miller of telling child victims not to report Cowen because "it could get people in trouble," reported The Oklahoman. That lawsuit also details how Sullins allegedly disciplined a student for writing to another student about being abused by Cowen.
"Instead of reporting the sexual assaults or informing the victim's parents, Sullins told Jane Doe 12 that she was a 'liar' and that 'he believed none of it,'" the lawsuit states.
Sullins has pleaded not guilty to charges of failing to report child abuse, according to CBS News.
Reportedly, there isn’t an attorney for the school listed.
In January, the school released a statement, which read, “The school district was informed that an adult male volunteer who frequently tutored students had inappropriately touched one or more 5th grade girls during school hours. The allegations described a touching with the girls fully clothed. [...] If the accusations are verified, he will be permanently banned from the school premises.”
Police said that Cowen has admitted to the molestations. They also stated that some of the alleged assaults could have been prevented if the school took parents’ complaints seriously. According to The Oklahoman, several girls were allegedly molested after the principal, Miller, ignored the complaints. She allegedly told Jane Doe 6 that Cowen's touching of her "was just an accident." Miller has asked that the charge against her be dismissed.
The lawsuit states, "Defendants' actions and inactions created an opportunity for Cowen to continue to abuse Plaintiffs and other students. [...] Reporting Cowen's misconduct to law enforcement and/or victims' parents could have […] sheltered Plaintiffs from Cowen's misconduct.”
[Photo: Perry Police Department]