The Norman Transcript

February 28, 2013

District assures children’s safety

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Norman Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano released a statement Wednesday about allegations in a lawsuit filed against him and the school district last week in regard to a former NPS employee charged with sexual abuse to a child.

Christopher Flores, 30, of Norman, a former NPS teacher’s aide, was charged earlier this month with two counts of lewd or indecent acts to a 9-year-old boy. In an interview with police detectives, Flores admitted to committing the acts on three separate occasions, according to the affidavit filed with the charges.

NPS spokeswoman Shelly Hickman said the recent charges against Flores have no connection to the school district. Flores allegedly molested a relative’s son.

“As the superintendent of Norman Public Schools, I assure this community the safety and security of students is of the utmost priority to us,” Siano said. “We have strict policy and procedures for when parents or faculty members report abuse of a student. We take immediate action, notifying law enforcement and the Department of Human Services and fully cooperate with those entities in their investigations.”

The lawsuit alleges that Flores and former NPS teacher Carolyn Shave abused children in their special needs class. Parents said they have been complaining about Flores and Shave since 2002.

Several lawsuits also were filed against the district regarding the former employees since complaints began in 2002. Three of those were federal lawsuits, which the district settled out of court. The other was a state lawsuit.

The recent lawsuit brings up allegations that were brought forth in those previous lawsuits. It also alleges that Siano and the school district knowingly and purposefully kept information about abuse from being made know to parents.

The lawsuit made further allegations that NPS did not properly supervise and train Flores and Shave and negligently rehired them after they were placed on notice of harm to children in Shave’s classroom.

The lawsuit also alleged that because Flores’ father was a police officer, the situation was a “cover-up.” Norman Police spokesman Tom Easley said the case was investigated, but the district attorney didn’t think there was sufficient evidence to charge Flores.

“The case was not overlooked; it was investigated,” Easley said.

Shave taught at NPS from 1983 until 1987 and then from 1992 until October 2006. Flores was employed by NPS from 2001 until May 2010.

Flores also interned with Moore Public Schools for a short time while he was a student at the University of Oklahoma.

Moore’s assistant superintendent, Dr. Robert Romines, said Flores worked with students in small and large group settings for a period of three weeks.

“Fortunately, there weren’t any complaints,” Romines said.

As of Wednesday night, Flores remained in custody at Cleveland County jail.

Attorney facing suspension: In a filing this week, the attorney responsible for filing several lawsuits over the years, and the most recent lawsuit against the school district and former NPS employees, is facing possible suspension of his law license, according to court filings.

The Oklahoma Bar Association filed a tribunal panel report Tuesday with the Oklahoma Supreme Court with information regarding Oklahoma City attorney Alexander Bednar. The report recommended a one-year suspension of Bednar’s law license.

The Professional Responsibility Tribunal (PRT) panel found evidence that Bednar is incapable of practicing law at this time because he is currently suffering from “mental or physical illness,” which renders him “incapable of managing himself, his affairs or the affairs of others with the integrity and competence requisite for the proper practice of law as defined by Rule 10,” according to the panel report.

The PRT panel recommended that Bednar should only be reinstated after a full psychiatric evaluation is conducted by a neutral, qualified mental health professional to explore his previous alleged diagnosis and/or the possibility of any other mental health disorders.

The attorney will retain his license to practice law until a trial has been held and the Oklahoma Supreme Court makes a decision, court officials said.

“He is (currently) a member in this bar in good standing,” said Gina Hendryx, Oklahoma Bar Association general counsel.

Bednar’s attorney did not return a request for comments on the proceedings.

Jessica Bruha

366-3540

jbruha@normantranscript.com

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