A group of 12 current and former girls' basketball players in Oklahoma alleged sexual misconduct by former Ninnekah High School head coach Ronald Gene Akins in a federal lawsuit filed Friday.
According to News 9 in Oklahoma City, the unidentified plaintiffs also alleged that the Grady County Sheriff, district administrators and staff at Ninnekah Public Schools and Friend Public Schools failed to respond appropriately to accusations against Akins.
The 54-year-old Akins was arrested June 25 and charged with two counts of felony rape by instrumentation and two counts of sexual battery in Grady County District Court. He was released on bail several days later. The Express-Star reported that Akins’ home was burned to the ground shortly after his arrest. In July, Akins and assistant coach Charles Yackeyonny submitted letters of resignation to the school board.
The federal lawsuit alleges that Akins’ harassment began in 2009, and at two different schools in Grady County. Among the lawsuit’s defendants, who are accused of failing to address reports of sexual misconduct and intentionally inflicting emotional distress, are Yackeyonney, Ninnekah Public Schools, Friend Public Schools, Grady County sheriff Jim Weir, former deputy Phillip Blevins, Ninnekah Public Schools superintendent Michael Todd Bunch, high school principal David Pitts, former athletic director and junior high principal Glen Shoemake, and former Ninnekah Public Schools employee and basketball team chaperone Tammara Garrett.
The Oklahoman spoke with Jane Doe No. 1, a 26-year-old woman who told authorities that she was an eighth-grader at Friend Public School in 2009 when Akins repeatedly isolated her and forced himself on her multiple times.
“As a 13-year-old, someone that you trust grooms you into thinking that you love them, they love you — you don’t understand that that is one, illegal, and two, just completely wrong,” she said, saying the alleged abuse led to mental health problems.
Jane Doe No. 1 reported the alleged abuse to the Grady County Sheriff’s Office in 2015, with Blevins interviewing her at the time. Blevins reportedly told her the district attorney would never prosecute Akins without a corroborating witness. The lawsuit alleges the woman told Blevins in 2018 of another alleged victim but the deputy took no action.
“That was the whole purpose that I came forward, to save other girls, and when that didn't happen, I felt like I did it for nothing,” Jane Doe No. 1 said.
Jane Doe No. 2 was a 17-year-old high school senior at Ninnekah when the kissing and groping allegedly started in 2014. She told deputies Akins later attempted to rape her in a school bathroom and that they maintained a sexual relationship after she graduated.
District staff members were allegedly aware of rumors that Akins had inappropriate relationships with basketball players. The rumors spread to the point that the Ninnekah High School principal met with Akins and the team during the 2017-18 school year. The girls told investigators they felt they couldn’t speak up because Akins was in the room.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education suspended Akins' teaching certificate effective August 26. An Oklahoma State Department of Education spokesperson said Ninnekah’s standing as a school district could be at risk.
“OSDE is actively engaged with an investigation at Ninnekah and have been on site meeting with school personnel regarding related matters and Title IX compliance and procedures,” the spokesperson said. “Individual certification and accreditation status are under review for possible state board action.”