AP NEWS

Perry school district pays $3.5 million in sexual abuse case

January 17, 2019
This June 5, 2018 booking photo released by Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows Arnold C. Cowen. A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit accusing an Oklahoma school district of shielding a sexual predator and calling children liars. Court documents show Perry Public Schools admitted liability for the "unwanted and unlawful touching" of 14 girls by a former teacher's aide and agreed to pay the families $3.5 million. Arrest affidavits note the Perry Upper Elementary School students detailed how 87-year-old Arnold Cowen fondled them and touched their breasts in 2016 and 2017. (Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP)

PERRY, Okla. (AP) — A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit accusing an Oklahoma school district of shielding a sexual predator and calling children liars.

Perry Public Schools admitted liability for the “unwanted and unlawful touching” of 14 girls by a former teacher’s aide and agreed to pay the families $3.5 million to settle the case, according to court documents.

Neil Smith, attorney for the plaintiffs, told The Associated Press that the offer was accepted Wednesday.

Arrest affidavits note the Perry Upper Elementary School students detailed how Arnold Cowen, 87, fondled them in 2016 and 2017, sometimes during “lengthy hugs and inappropriate touches.”

Cowen was charged with 20 counts of lewd or indecent acts to children under 16 and one count of aggravated possession of child pornography. He pleaded guilty to all charges last February and is serving a 10-year prison sentence.

“The girls had been silenced by faculty and teachers,” said Cameron Spradling, an attorney for the victims and their families. “There was no doubt that these children were molested and (the school district) admitted it. There’s no doubt that they were responsible for allowing that to happen. They did everything wrong.”

One of those officials, the school’s ex-principal, was put on five years’ probation in March for failing to report the misconduct. Kenda Miller, 51, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of failure to promptly report child abuse or neglect after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors. She resigned in June 2017.

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