Ninnekah sexual abuse case turned over to the OSBI
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation will take over an inquiry into Ninnekah Public Schools, a small school district plagued by allegations of sexual misconduct and wrongdoing.
A spokeswoman for the OSBI confirmed the agency has accepted a request to investigate the school district, which has about 530 students south of Chickasha.
Fifteen current and former girls basketball players are suing Ninnekah and Friend Public Schools, alleging they suffered sexual abuse by former coach Ronald Gene Akins. The women also allege school staff knew or should have known about the abuse but failed to report it.
Akins, 54, has been charged in Grady County District Court with two counts of felony sexual battery and two counts of felony rape by instrumentation.
Grady County Sheriff Jim Weir and former detective Phillip Blevins are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which is pending in Oklahoma City federal court.
A plaintiff alleged she reported her abuse in 2015 but the sheriff’s office, with Blevins leading the case, failed to complete the investigation. A Grady County deputy reported the case files from Blevins’ investigation are now missing, according to sheriff’s office records.
Attorneys representing the plaintiffs demanded Grady County District Attorney Jason Hicks turn over the investigation to the OSBI.
“The mere possibility that Sheriff Weir’s office may investigate this matter in a manner to avoid or limit his office’s liability in the civil suit creates an unacceptable conflict of interest,” attorney David Ogle wrote in a letter to Hicks.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys gave Grady County a deadline of 5 p.m. Thursday to request the OSBI before they would elevate their demand to Attorney General John O’Connor or Gov. Kevin Stitt, they wrote.
Weir said he made the request to ensure there is no wrongdoing by his office and to widen the scope of the investigation, according to a news release from the sheriff on Thursday.
“I am confident that at the conclusion of this investigation the public will see that my office stands for the highest standards and that any allegations that either I, or my office, has done anything wrong are simply not true,” Weir said.
An OSBI spokeswoman said the agency received the request on Wednesday.
Attorneys for the alleged victims also asked that the OSBI investigate whether other Ninnekah staff members had committed wrongdoing.
The Ninnekah Board of Education suspended Superintendent Todd Bunch and high school Principal David Pitts last week. School board President Rusty Garrett and board clerk Scott Miller resigned.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys said they received “serious and credible” allegations that Bunch and Pitts, among others, had actual knowledge that Akins and assistant girls basketball coach Charles Yackeyonny “posed a substantial threat to the female students of Ninnekah High School.”
Yackeyonny has not been charged with any crimes in the sexual abuse scandal. He resigned from Ninnekah in July and took a position in Lawton Public Schools, where he has been suspended.
Reporter Nuria Martinez-Keel covers K-12 and higher education throughout the state of Oklahoma. Have a story idea for Nuria? She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @NuriaMKeel. Support Nuria’s work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at subscribe.oklahoman.com.