NINNEKAH – The fallout from a sex abuse scandal that has shocked the town of Ninnekah continues as three more victims come forward and top school district leaders leave.
The Ninnekah Public Schools School Board accepted the resignation of board chair Rusty Garrett and Clerk Scott Miller on Wednesday.
The rest of the board voted to suspend Ninnekah Public Schools Superintendent Todd Bunch and High School Principal David Pitts.
After consulting with a lawyer, the board’s “only option” was to immediately suspend Bunch and Pitts with pay, board member Diane Carroll read from a prepared statement. Efforts to reach Bunch and Pitts were unsuccessful.
The board declined to comment further after the meeting.
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A crowd of around 60 applauded when the resignations and suspensions were approved. An even larger group assembled the fiery board of directors on August 19, demanding the resignation of Bunch, Pitts, Garrett and other officials.
“I find that the passion I once had for serving the district is not what it should be and I have come to the conclusion that it is time for me to step down as chairman of the board. and to step down from my seat on the education board, âGarrett said. wrote in his resignation letter, which Vice President Dustin Tate read aloud.
Garrett served on the five-member board of directors for 19 years.
Miller, the chief of the Ninnekah Police Department, also agreed to step down from the board after 14 years in office.
âI hope this small step could help our community’s healing process and further dispel any potential conflicts of interest,â Miller wrote in his resignation letter.
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Fifteen former female basketball players, including three women who came forward this week, are suing the school district, Bunch, Pitts and former school employees.
The women claim that district leaders and staff knew or should have known about allegations of sexual harassment and abuse by former basketball coach Ronald Gene Akins.
Akins, 54, was charged by Grady County District Court with two counts of sexual violence and two counts of rape by instrumentation.
Garrett’s wife, Tammara Garrett, is named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Tammara Garrett told Grady County investigators she heard rumors of Akins’ alleged sexual irregularities with students while she was a school employee, but didn’t believe them because ‘she was a friend of the coach, according to sheriff’s office records.
Under state law, all school employees are considered mandatory journalists and must notify the Oklahoma Department of Social Services and local law enforcement if they have any reason to believe that a student under the age of 18 is the victim of abuse or neglect.
Ninnekah resident and former district relative Joseph Morris said the council’s action on Wednesday was “a great relief.”
Morris’s niece reported to authorities that she was sexually abused by Akins at Ninnekah High School.
âIt’s hard to say you didn’t know (about the alleged abuse) when it’s such a small school,â Morris said. “How can four people not know, especially when your wife, the wife of the chairman of the board, seems to be in the middle of it all? “
About 530 students attend Ninnekah School District in a town of 1,000 people south of Chickasha.
The school board hired lawyer Phyllis Walta at a cost of $ 185 per hour to provide additional legal advice. The district already retains the law firm of Tulsa Rosenstein, Fist & Ringold.
The lawsuit, which is pending in Oklahoma City federal court, also names Friend Public Schools, Grady County Sheriff Jim Weir and former Grady County Deputy Phillip Blevins as accused, following a 2015 survey of Akins.
A woman, identified as No. 1 Jane Doe in the lawsuit, reported to the Grady County Sheriff’s Office in 2015 that Akins abused her while she was in eighth grade at Friend School. Blevins was the main investigator in the case.
The investigation came to nothing and the case files are now missing, according to current records from the sheriff’s office.
Victims say the investigation could have arrested Akins before he committed suspected future abuse, according to the lawsuit.
“It was the only purpose I showed up for, saving other girls, and when it didn’t happen I felt like I did it for nothing,” said Jane Doe. No. 1 in an interview with The Oklahoman.
Blevins resigned after two other women came forward in June to report that Akins had kissed, groped and touched them inappropriately – behavior allegedly similar to Jane Doe’s 2015 report No.1.
Blevins is now the Commanding Officer of the Investigations Division of the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office. He could not be reached for comment.
Although he told investigators he was unaware of the allegations against Akins, Bunch, the superintendent of Ninnekah, said he recalled that a deputy had come to the district several years ago. to investigate an allegation against Akins from a previous school, according to sheriff’s office records.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education is also looking into the matter. The agency said Ninnekah’s position as a school district could be threatened.
âIndividual certification and accreditation status are under review for possible action (from the Oklahoma State Board of Education),â a spokesperson said.
The state’s Board of Education will discuss the matter in executive session at its monthly meeting on Thursday. No expected action is included on the agenda for board meetings.
Morris said the Ninnekah community is waiting to see what comes next.
âWe thought it was a community where nothing like this could ever happen,â Morris said. “We never imagined something like this could happen in the small town of Ninnekah, America.”
Journalist Nuria Martinez-Keel covers Kindergarten to Grade 12 and higher education throughout the state of Oklahoma. Do you have a story idea for Nuria? She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NuriaMKeel. Support the work of Nuria and that of fellow Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at Subscribe.oklahoman.com.