School Response to Abuse Raises Concern

Given that former Shawnee Assistant Athletic Director Ron Arthur was arrested in 2021 for crimes involving a student, you might expect Shawnee officials to go to great lengths to demonstrate they take student safety seriously.

Instead, a recent legal maneuver indicates that district officials think the real problem is that too many people raised concerns about Arthur.

In July 2021, Arthur was arrested and charged with three counts, including first-degree rape of a recently graduated student. Arthur was ultimately convicted this year of soliciting sex from a minor by use of technology and sentenced to five years in prison.

The former Shawnee High School student has filed a civil lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District, alleging school officials failed to prevent abuse.

As part of its response, the Shawnee school district recently issued a subpoena to state Sen. Shane Jett, demanding he produce any communications between himself and any of Arthur’s alleged victims, and provide any materials he shared with the office of the Oklahoma attorney general and the Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office. (Jett was a voice for many families and abuse survivors following Arthur’s arrest.)

Jett, who is fighting the district’s effort to unmask whistleblowers, called the effort “a political witch hunt.” He said the district’s goal is to create a “chilling effect” on future whistleblowers.

Jett’s right. The school’s targeting of whistleblowers is inexcusable, especially since there is much evidence suggesting school officials were woefully negligent.

In 2007, a Shawnee parent notified school officials that her son reported being sexually groomed and mistreated by Arthur. The district’s response was a Professional Growth Plan that told Arthur when interacting with students he should “avoid touching their genitals.”


There’s no record indicating that school officials reported the alleged sexual assault of a student to police.

In April 2022, Amber Soule, a deputy sheriff and investigator with the Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office, said school personnel records showed Shawnee school officials were aware of repeated infractions across multiple years and Arthur routinely ignored restrictions imposed by school officials, yet he remained on staff.

The federal lawsuit notes that by 2018 a member of the Shawnee school board was among those raising concern, yet nothing meaningful was done. Since Arthur’s arrest, several other former students have come forward alleging abuse through the years.

If school officials were serious, they would quickly settle this lawsuit, take action against any negligent staff, and impose stringent reporting requirements that assure parents this horrible sequence of events will not be repeated.

It’s a sad truth that pedophiles seek employment at any location granting access to children. Employers are not to blame for that reality. But school officials are to blame for the actions they take—or don’t take—to make certain children are protected.

About the Author: Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

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