The Oklahoman

Ninnekah sexual abuse case turned over to the OSBI

- Nuria Martinez-Keel

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 confirmed 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 suffered 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 office, with Blevins leading the case, failed to complete the investigat­ion. A Grady County deputy reported the case files from Blevins’ investigat­ion are now missing, according to sheriff’s office records.

Attorneys representi­ng the plaintiffs demanded Grady County District Attorney Jason Hicks turn over the investigat­ion to the OSBI.

“The mere possibilit­y that Sheriff Weir’s office may investigat­e this matter in a manner to avoid or limit his office’s liability in the civil suit creates an unacceptab­le conflict of interest,” attorney David Ogle wrote in a letter to Hicks.

The plaintiffs’ 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 office and to widen the scope of the investigat­ion, according to a news release from the sheriff on Thursday.

“I am confident that at the conclusion of this investigat­ion the public will see that my office stands for the highest standards and that any allegation­s that either I, or my office, 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 plaintiffs’ 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 nmartinezk­eel@oklahoman.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.

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