Perry School District to pay $3.5 million to victims of sexual abuse

Perry Elementary School. (KOKH/File)

After a lawsuit, the Perry school district will have to pay $3.5 million to the victims of a sexual abuse scandal.

There were 14 victims in the lawsuit against the school district.

Each will receive about $250,000.

Their attorney says that's the largest settlement against a school district in Oklahoma history.

About two years ago, Arnold Cowen, then an 85-year-old teaching assistant, was arrested for sexually assaulting elementary school students.

To make matters worse, the students original complaints were ignored.

“They had been going to their teachers, they had been going to the principal, and those girls were told that they were fabricating the story, that he’s a nice old man, that they were drama queens," said Cameron Spradling, the attorney for the victims.

The former principal of the school and a former teacher were charged with failing to report the abuse.

“This was a natural result of turning a blind eye to it," Spradling said. "That you turned a blind eye to a wolf that came in your back door and was molesting these children. And the lesson that should be learned for this to all these teachers and all these administrators is this is a mandatory reporting state.”

Some of the $3.5 million will come from the school district's insurance policy.

About $2.8 million will have to come from property taxes.

Perry's Mayor, Gordon Johnson, says he's spoken with families of some of the victims and people who work at the school.

He believes they're doing all that they can to make sure nothing like this happens again.

“They are sick and heartbroken over this, and working very diligently to make sure each child in their class is safe and feels safe," Johnson said.

The money going to each victim in the settlement will be in the form of an annuity to provide counseling and education.

Arnold Cowen is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence.

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