Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 19, 2022 / 19:28 pm (CNA).
Ten current and former students, along with six parents or guardians, are suing a Catholic high school in Oklahoma — a school that they allege “fostered and allowed a rape culture” and “tolerated sexual harrassment and assault” by male students, teachers, and coaches for more than 10 years, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit, filed May 16 in Oklahoma County District Court, lists Mount St. Mary Catholic High School in Oklahoma City as a defendant. It also lists those who have authority over the school: the board of trustees, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, and the Sisters of Mercy.
The suit accuses three school leaders, who have since resigned, of playing a central role in the “commission of the assault and harassment” and covering it up: former principal Talita DeNegri, assistant principal Wendy Faires, and guidance counselor Mallory Tecmire.
“Despite being on actual and constructive notice of hundreds of incidents of sexual assault and harassment … MSM [Mount St. Mary’s] did not take reasonable steps to report or stop the rampant rape culture and ongoing sexual abuse that lay just beneath the surface,” the lawsuit reads. “Rather, MSM shamed women and girls who reported, including the Student Plaintiffs and other victims, and allowed men and boys to continue harassing and assaulting women and girls, including the Student Plaintiffs.”
The lawsuit alleges a breach of contract, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, discrimination on the basis of sex and hostile educational environment harassment, public nuisance, and slander. Plaintiffs are seeking more than $75 million in damages.
One male student who attended the high school from 2017 to 2022 — identified as “X.R.” — is accused in the complaint of raping or assaulting numerous women, including three of the plaintiffs. One woman accused him of groping and kissing her while she was driving, the complaint states, while another said he assaulted her in a dark classroom.
Mount St. Mary leaders learned of these incidents, the lawsuit alleges, but did nothing about X.R. until news media reported on sexual abuse allegations at the school. X.R. has been or will be criminally charged, the lawsuit claims.
In response to the lawsuit, Mount St. Mary’s shared a statement with CNA from the school’s incoming principal, Laura Cain.
“I have been made aware of the lawsuit but am unable to comment on pending legal situations,” Cain, who will serve as principal beginning on July 1, said. “What I can speak to is the confidence I have in the direction of Mount St. Mary Catholic High School. As an alumna and former parent, I know the pain our school’s community has faced over the last six months. We must ensure that we maintain a compassionate environment where students can grow and excel. Our future provides an opportunity to not only educate, but to improve.”
The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Sisters of Mercy did not respond with comment by time of publication.
When the archdiocese learned of the allegations last year, the staff contacted police, said Page Hauser, the archdiocese’s safe environment coordinator, the Associated Press reported.
“They also worked with the governing board at the school to hire an independent investigator to look into the allegations, resulting in the resignation of three staff members,” Hauser said in a statement Wednesday.
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Everyone in charge is a woman, and they didn’t take the proper measures to end rape and assault of other women?