WEWOKA, Okla. (KFOR) – Wewoka Middle School principal and youth pastor, Cody Barlow was formally charged with two felony counts of lewd or indecent acts with a child under the age of 16 on Thursday.
Barlow has been the WMS Principal since the 2019-2020 school year. Prior to that, he had been a teacher since the 2012-2013 school year.
A federal lawsuit filed on November 30 reveals graphic allegations of Barlow’s “grooming behavior” towards students.
The victim in that lawsuit, a then-6th grader, claims Barlow would initiate inappropriate contact in front of other Wewoka faculty members and parents.
Barlow was said to often “roughhouse” with members of the boys basketball team in ways that made students uncomfortable.
“Barlow also spent inordinate amounts of time with boys alone in his office, despite there being no indication such boys were in trouble or otherwise there for disciplinary reasons,” the lawsuit reads.
On the morning of October 12, 2022, a WMS counselor walked into Barlow’s office and witnessed Barlow standing behind a 7th grade boy, rubbing the teen’s shoulders and thrusting his hips back and forth against the boy, according to the lawsuit.
“[The WMS counselor] let out a yelp, but Barlow did not stop,” the lawsuit states. “[The WMS counselor] then screamed. Barlow then sat back down and placed the boy in his lap, over what [the WMS counselor] observed to be Barlow’s erect penis.”
That school counselor then reported the incident to police, who came and escorted Barlow off the premises.
That same day, Wewoka Superintendent, Dr. Shellie Gammill contacted a select group of WMS parents and requested they come to her office.
During that meeting, Dr. Gammill allegedly informed them that Barlow had engaged in inappropriate contact with “several boys.”
Dr. Gammill also discussed a specific incident from a month prior where a parent had walked into Barlow’s office and observed him “molesting” another boy, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Dr. Gammill’s admission to parents made it clear the school district knew of Barlow’s misconduct long before he was escorted from the school.
In an email provided to News 4 from Dr. Gammill to an Oklahoma State Board of Education representative on October 12 said, “I have put my middle school principal on administrative leave. There are allegations of inappropriate behavior. There are 4-5 students involved to varying degrees. One student is native which has made it more complicated.”
Despite Dr. Gammill reporting the October 12 incident to OSDE and explaining she also reported it to other agencies, the lawsuit states the district failed to report it right away.
“Now comes the really stupid thing that happened which was the snafu in this particular case and increased the number of victims of a period of time. The Wewoka Chief of Police, Keith Barkhimer, is also the Vice President of the Wewoka Board of Education. Teachers and school employees feared reporting to local law enforcement their ‘reason to believe’ because they knew it would not be anonymous and they feared that if they were wrong they would get fired. Therefore, they were compiling a list of those they suspected were being victimized; but, waiting until they caught Barlow in the act until they did anything. The catching in the act occurred on October 12, 2022!” explained an attorney representing a handful of alleged victims, Cameron Spradling.
An Oklahoma statute reads, “Every school employee having reason to believe that a student under the age of eighteen (18) years is a victim of abuse or neglect shall report the matter immediately to the Department of Human Services and local law enforcement.”
That law became effective in 2019.
“We know from our sources that an intrepid reporter called the then Communications Director at OSDE HQ on October 25, 2022 because of a tip that a Wewoka principal was going to be arrested. However, OSDE HQ had no knowledge of these events. On October 26, 2022, OSDE HQ contacted Shellie Gammill and she revealed that she had written an email on October 12, 2022, an email that for some reason was never forwarded to OSDE HQ,” said Spradling.
Spradling and his co-counsel, Ross Leonoudakis are currently representing at least three victims.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation arrested Barlow on October 27, 2022 on a count of lewd acts with a minor.
“The Wewoka School District should provide a safe learning environment for its students. It failed to do so,” the federal lawsuit claims.
There’s only one victim attached to that lawsuit so far.
That victim is suing Wewoka Public Schools and Barlow.
In a court document where the school district responds to the lawsuit, they say, “The school district cannot guarantee the safety of any student.”
News 4 reached out to the district’s attorney for comment, but never heard back.
Spradling told KFOR he knows of at least 10 victims of Barlow’s, but believes there are more.
“OSBI has not yet investigated the First Baptist Church or his activities as a youth pastor or as a counselor at Falls Creek. Furthermore, they have not finished the forensics on the computer they seized from the school or the computer they seized from his home. But, what they have uncovered to date is disturbing. Deep Background. They have now attained enough information to seek a search warrant for the church computer. So, it’s coming,” explained Spradling.
Based on two of the victims though, Barlow was formally charged in Seminole County on Thursday with two counts of lewd and indecent acts with a child under the age of 16 .
If convicted, each offense is punishable by three to 20 years in prison.
“Why only two victims filed on yesterday? Simply, because the judge gave the State of Oklahoma a date certain to file. They chose these two to file yesterday and will amend and keep adding charges and victims; however, the OSBI’s investigation is still continuing. We will also be moving forward to add our additional John Doe(s) to the present case with their details,” added Spradling.
Details of the OSBI investigation remain under seal.
News 4 reached out to Barlow’s attorney for comment.
One of his attorneys told KFOR she was unavailable while the other never replied to the request.
News 4 also reached out to State Superintendent Ryan Walters to see if Barlow has been disciplined yet.
“My administration has been closely monitoring this situation from the beginning. We are working with law-enforcement, and are prepared to take immediate and swift action,” said Supt. Walters.
News 4 has reached out to Dr. Gimmell to see if Barlow has been fired or is still on administrative leave. We’re waiting to hear back.