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Perry principal motion hearing in child abuse case rescheduled; State Board of Education meets to discuss civil suit

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PERRY, Okla. — A motion hearing for a Perry school principal charged with failing to report child abuse or neglect will have to wait until next month.

Kenda Miller appeared in court Thursday morning for an appeals motion by the state asking the judge, Associate District Judge Nikki Leach, in the case to recuse himself.

Leach allowed Miller’s attorney, Cheryl Ramsey, request for more time to respond to the appeal.

A handful of parents of alleged victims and supporters sat quietly in the courtroom, as Ramsey and Assistant District Attorney Billie Chrz discussed the scheduling of the recusal motion with Leach.

Both parents and Miller’s attorney declined to comment after the hearing.

The next court date for Miller and the recusal motion is set for April 27.

Earlier this month, the Noble County District Attorney Brian Hermanson filed a motion and an appeal with Leach and District Judge Phil Ross, arguing Leach has shown bias, preferential treatment and has familial conflicts of interests with Miller, the school district and another defendant connected to the case, Arnold Cowen.

Court documents said prosecutors asked Leach to recuse himself prior to filing the motions but he refused.

Miller was charged last month with one misdemeanor count for failing to report child abuse or neglect.

Police learned of at least 10 students that were abused at the hands of Cowen, an 85-year-old teacher’s aide at Perry Upper Elementary School.

Police said Miller and fifth grade math teacher Jeffrey Sullins disregarded multiple complaints from students that Cowen touched them inappropriately, starting as far back as December 2016.

Sullins has been charged with two counts of failure to report child abuse or neglect.

Cowen faces more than 20 counts of lewd or indecent acts to a child as well as child pornography possession charges.

Miller told police, according to court documents, police were not told of the complaints because they were “deemed to be false by her staff and herself. Stating, ‘we have had these allegations on Cowen before, but we determined they were fabricated by the students.’”

In interviews with police, Miller said Cowen’s of “great moral character and was a very ‘nice guy.”

Both Miller and Sullins have had their teaching license revoked by the State Board of Education last month under emergency orders.

Sullins has pleaded not guilty to his charges.

As the criminal cases move forward, Miller has also filed a civil suit against the state in Oklahoma County, suing over her suspended license and loss of pay “based on unproven claims,” according to the suit.

The State Board of Education and its attorney are scheduled to meet in closed session Thursday afternoon to discuss the civil suit.