Shawnee parents, community address Board of Education after sex crime charges filed against Ron Arthur
Nearly every seat in the room was occupied as many parents, students and community members gathered to address the Shawnee Board of Education at its September meeting Monday night.
The meeting began with the opportunity for public comment, where several people expressed their concerns to the board and Superintendent Dr. April Grace regarding the district's response to current and previous sexual assault allegations against former Shawnee High School boys' basketball coach Ron Arthur.
Five days prior to the meeting, Arthur was charged with three felonies, including second degree rape, forcible sodomy and soliciting sexual contact with a minor by use of technology.
If convicted, Arthur could be sentenced to about 45 years in prison.
The charges of forcible sodomy and soliciting sexual contact with a minor by use of technology regard a student from the class of 2021 who reported two sexual encounters with Arthur in May and July.
During the first encounter he was "believed to be a then-current student at Shawnee High School," charges read, and during both encounters he was 17-years-old.
The rape charge involves a former student from 2011. This matter was recently reported to law enforcement, that charge reads.
Arthur, who was suspended from the district Aug. 2 and has since resigned, maintains his innocence, but this is not the first student to accuse him of sexual misconduct as allegations regarding his behavior date back to 2007.
Three people spoke at the meeting, including Delinda Curtis, who said her son, Rob Hair, was abused by Arthur when he was a freshmen on the basketball team at SHS in 2007. Curtis said this was just a year before the former educator was made a teacher of the year in 2008.
In her speech to the board, Curtis expressed her frustration with both the board and SPS administration.
Curtis said 15 years ago after Hair disclosed his story to his parents, they contacted the school. After an investigation, Arthur was suspended for three days and required to partake in sensitivity training.
"That was 15 years ago. Ron Arthur stayed in a position that allowed him to abuse other students," Curtis said. "After his arrest, people familiar with my son's experience came to me and said 'It's about time.' But it's not about time, it's way past time."
She said both the district and law enforcement failed her son and potentially other students.
"How can parents trust a system to protect their children when that system actively kept an abuser in a position of power and does not leave a way for kids to have a voice," Curtis asked of the school board.
Initially, Curtis was not able to speak because those who wish to give public comments during the meeting are required to sign up prior to the meeting.
However, she was able to address the board because SHS graduate Dr. Matt Miller gave her his remaining minutes after he also spoke to the board.
Miller has a daughter currently in the SPS district and also expressed his frustration toward the board.
"Collectively as a whole this Board of Education has failed this school system for the past 16 years dating back to Mr. Arthur's hiring in 2005," Miller said.
The parent said Arthur should have been fired long before 2021.
"Allegations of crimes against children should've taken priority with overwhelming support provided by investigations led by DHS and law enforcement," he said. "Instead, we now have an entire generation of Shawnee youth exploited due to consequential inaction of the SPS Board of Education."
Additionally, SPS graduate and current resident Rob Morris addressed the board and spoke about his frustration with their conduct regarding Arthur and other issues.
The Board of Education listened to the public comments but offered no comments of their own.
Curtis, Morris and Miller were the only people in a large audience to give their public comments due to the sign up policy.
Curtis said at first she was frustrated she wouldn't be able to speak, but she's thankful she had the opportunity to tell her family's story.
"It felt good. I was nervous but it felt heard," she said.
She hopes her and Hair's story will have an impact on how other students are heard and how schools help those impacted by abusers in education.
Arthur, who was serving as Shawnee's assistant athletic director for the past six years, submitted his resignation Sept. 3.
Before Arthur submitted his resignation, which will be effective Sept. 17, a termination hearing was scheduled for Sept. 18.
Arthur's next court date on the filed charges hasn't yet been scheduled in Pottawatomie County District Court.
This story has been updated to clarify more information on the specific charges.