Court hears lawsuit over Skiatook teacher firing

Wednesday, April 25th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A Skiatook teacher, who says he was wrongfully fired, got his day in court Tuesday. Dennis Curtis lost his job after turning over tapes to KOTV that showed the superintendent's son secretly videotaping girls in the school locker room.

KOTV's crime reporter Lori Fullbright broke this story last August and has been following it every step of the way. Tuesday, a string of witnesses testified about who knew about the tapes, who saw the tapes, who had the tapes and what they did with them. The school district says the teacher should've turned this tape over to authorities as soon as he saw it. But, Dennis Curtis says he couldn't do that given the unique set of circumstances. He says Noonie RedEagle, the superintendent's son, had a history of getting special treatment and he was afraid the tape would be covered-up and the kids would continue to be victims. The superintendent denied he treated his son with favoritism and denied there would've been a cover-up.

The school fired Curtis for incompetence, not reporting child abuse and moral turpitude. Based on the law, the judge threw out the first two and will only made a final decision based on the third. Curtis' lawyer wondered why this man, Ken Atterbury is still a teacher at the school after admitting he also saw the tapes and didn't report it, even after a lawyer told him he should. She argued the only reason Curtis was fired and Atterbury wasn't, was because Curtis helped get the tapes to the media. The school district argued this case is not about anyone but Curtis and said he thought of himself first when he didn't get the tapes to anyone in power for eight months after he received them. Curtis testified he couldn't help the delay and believed the kids were safe since RedEagle was no longer involved in coaching girl's sports. His attorney argued he was courageous for getting the tapes in the open and getting the secret videotaping stopped.

The school district says Curtis failed in his job as a role model and his first instinct should've been to protect the kids. Curtis' attorney argued he did protect the kids, even at the risk of losing his livelihood. The judge will make her decision by Friday. Neither side wanted to talk to KOTV on camera until that time. As far as why the other teacher, Ken Atterbury hasn't been disciplined when he not only knew about the tapes but, saw them in the summer of 1999, a school board member testified Tuesday was the first she'd heard of it.