Delinda Curtis stood in “discomfort” during a press conference at the State Capitol today as she outlined the alleged sexual misconduct her son, Rob Hair, had faced at the hands of former Shawnee Public Schools assistant athletic director and basketball coach Ron Arthur.
“This is not the first time for me to publicly recount this story. I addressed the school board in September as soon as I found out about the last victim,” Curtis said. “I got texts on my phone from people who knew my story, some of them educators, who said, ‘It’s about time.’ And that was heartbreaking.”
Hair spoke after his mother, taking a deep breath before referencing his 2007 experience with Arthur and saying he still feels “exposed without any validation for the past 15 years.”
“Fifteen years ago, my family and I went through what we thought were the proper channels to report this. But nothing of substance was done,” Hair said. “Make no mistake, Ron Arthur is and should be the focus of this. He abused me. But there were people in the system that kept him in power to abuse others. Some of those people are still in positions of power within the school system today.”
Curtis had expressed similar sentiments.
“My truth is this coach — I don’t even like to say his name, behind the premise of a friendly persona and winning seasons, he groomed my freshman son with sexual innuendos — sexual intimidation and inappropriate touching,” Curtis said. “I was too nice in 2007. I trusted the system.”
Sen. Shane Jett (R-Shawnee) called the press conference and said he worries the system is broken and is not protecting students.
In addition to having Curtis and Hair tell their story, Jett also asked local law enforcement to outline their investigation into Arthur so far. Then, he said he would be delivering a letter to Attorney General John O’Connor (embedded below) asking that he launch a multi-county grand jury investigation into the allegations against Arthur and what Jett called a 15-year pattern of sexual abuse and coverup within the Shawnee school district.
Arthur has already been charged in Pottawatomie District Court with soliciting sexual contact with a minor by use of technology, forcible sodomy and first-degree rape owing to more recent allegations. However, there are accusations of sexual misconduct with students against Arthur that span back to 2006, law enforcement officials said.
Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Amber Soule has been investigating the allegations against Arthur for more than two years and said four victims have come forward so far. The allegations from two of the individuals who say Arthur committed misconduct, however, occurred more than 12 years ago, which means the state’s statute of limitations at the time could prevent charges from being filed.
“One particular statement that sticks out to me the most and was probably the most sickening statement to me is him asking a student, ‘Where is my goodnight text?’” Soule said. “He is a predator. He has groomed these kids to give them things to, however you want to put it, give back, I guess.”
During Wednesday’s press conference, Soule asked for any other victims to come forward and speak with her.
“I can’t begin to tell you the amount of students he has groomed by just seeing the text messages I’ve seen,” Soule said. “It made me physically sick to my stomach.”
Jett said there could be victims outside of the Shawnee area owing to Arthur’s prior employment at Ponca City Public Schools, Muskogee Public Schools and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in Miami. In terms of Arthur’s time at Shawnee High School, Jett said the situation spans three superintendents’ administrations.
“This wasn’t a first offense. It wasn’t a second. It was multiple offenses that spread over a 15-year period,” Jett said.
‘I want to make sure he never does this again’
Hair told media that he has vowed to own and speak his truth.
“There is not a time that goes by — when visiting the town of Shawnee — that memories of the past don’t come back to haunt my present,” Hair said. “Whether it be the worry about what someone may know or say or the simple fact of running into ex-coaches, staff or Ron Arthur at favorite local restaurants.”
For the 2007 inquiry into Hair’s allegation against Arthur, Curtis said Arthur was given a three-day suspension and had to read a book on sensitivity training. Her son quit the basketball team and transferred school districts.
More recently, according to court documents, between approximately March and July 2021, Arthur used a smart phone to repeatedly contact a then-17-year-old Shawnee Public Schools student in order to coerce the alleged victim into sexual conduct.
On approximately May 22, 2021, Arthur allegedly performed oral sex on a recently graduated student in a rural area near Shawnee. Arthur was arrested in August and had his educator certificate suspended by State Board of Education members and their meeting the same month.
According to the affidavit of probable case, upon further investigation with search warrants, eight admonishments were found in Arthur’s employment file at Shawnee Public Schools for making vulgar and sexual comments to male students and for making vulgar comments about female students. The district had also received allegations of having inappropriately touched a male student’s buttocks, sending inappropriate text messages to students and having contact with students alone when he was not allowed to, per his previous reinstatements.
Soule provided a timeline surrounding Arthur’s time at Shawnee Public Schools, beginning in 2007:
- Between 2007 and 2008, Arthur had three suspensions;
- In 2007, Arthur wrote a rebuttal explaining the different reasons he was still in contact with a student he was told to stop contacting;
- On Sept. 19, 2007, an alleged victim went to their counselor to drop out of basketball owing to Arthur’s abuse and disclosed a “what happens in the locker room, stays in the locker room” environment fostered by Arthur;
- In 2008, Arthur was written up again for continuing to have contact with the student;
- Between 2008 and 2015, there were no reprimands against Arthur, something Soule said she finds concerning;
- In 2018, a concerned parent brought up the 2007 allegations again and questioned Arthur’s continued employment at the district;
- On April 5, 2018, Arthur was written up owing to allegations of inappropriate comments and interactions with students;
- From April 25 to May 4, 2018, Arthur was suspended, but his suspension ended six days early;
- In 2020, Arthur was reprimanded by an assistant superintendent over educational and professional conduct concerns that could lead to suspension or termination;
- In June 2020, Arthur resigned as head basketball coach but was still allowed to be around students;
- In August 2021, Arthur was arrested for current charges. He resigned in September.
Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent April Grace has served in the position since 2016. Soule said Grace recommended that the school board terminate Arthur’s employment in 2018. However, the board chose not to, Soule said. Grace has said she and the district “cannot comment on the specifics” of the Arthur investigation.
“It’s heartbreaking that there are teachers and coaches that we are supposed to trust as parents with our kids, and we can’t trust them because they’re preying on our kids,” Soule said. “I want to make sure he never does this again. He’s still doing it, and I saw that because after he was arrested more [victims came forward].”
The Shawnee Public Schools Board is scheduled to meet at noon Thursday, April 7. The agenda does not list an executive session to discuss legal matters, but it does include an item for the “reorganization of the board” following the swearing in of a new member.