OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A civil lawsuit has been filed by a group of students and parents against Mount St. Mary High School for allegedly fostering and allowing “a rape culture that shamed women and girls and tolerated sexual harassment and assault by men and boys, including students and teachers and coaches who are MSM employees.”

“The Student Plaintiffs and, on information and belief, dozens of other women and girls within the MSM community, reported assault, rape, and harassment, by boys and men at MSM (including MSM teachers and coaches), but were ignored, shamed, disbelieved and gaslit,” the lawsuit said.

It goes on to say former MSM Principal Talita DeNegri, Assistant Principal Wendy Faires, and guidance counselor Mallory Tecmire “each played a central role in both the commission of the assault and harassment (which amounts to crime) and the coverup. They have since all three resigned.”

This lawsuit comes about 6 months after “the media broke a story that MSM has been covering up possibly hundredes of sexual assaults and incidents of sexual harassment for, on information and belief, decades.”

Attorney Rachel Bussett explained the lawsuit to KFOR after filing it Monday. She is representing 10 unnamed current and former students and six parents going against MSM, the MSM board of trustees, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, and the Sisters of Mercy of The Americas South Central Community.

The complaints include Breach of Contract/Tortious Breach of Contract, Negligence/Gross negligence/Negligence Per Se, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress,
Discrimination and Hostile Educational Environment Harassment under Title IX and Public Nuisance. They are also suing for punitive damages.

“Despite being on actual and constructive notice of hundreds of incidents of sexual assault and harassment, some in which it participated, all of which it encouraged and condoned, MSM did not take reasonable steps to report or stop the rampant rape culture and ongoing sexual abuse that lay jut beneath the surface,” the lawsuit said. “Rather, MSM shamed women and girls who reported, including the Student Plaintiffs, blamed the Student Plaintiffs and other victims, and allowed men and boys to continue harassing and assaulting women and girls, including the Student Plaintiffs. This resulted in an atmosphere that was unsafe for teenage girls, and which cause each of the Plaintiffs’ severe harm physical, emotional, and economic harm.”

The lawsuit accuses MSM of shaming its students who are women and girls for their bodies and for displaying any sort of sexuality, while it encourages and condones the same behavior in men and boys.

“Instead of teaching young men to respect boundaries, it demeaned the women for their sexuality,” said Bussett of the MSM culture.

Photo goes with story
Mount St. Mary Catholic High School in Oklahoma City. Image KFOR

The suit speaks of male students groping girls at various school functions, parts of a sexual assault being caught on a school camera, a male coach slapping a female student on the buttocks, one male student allegedly assaulting or raping over a dozen girls and male staff making comments such as “so many stairs and so many little skirts” (referring to the MSM uniform) and “where are we supposed to look?” In all these cases and many more, Bussett says enough wasn’t done by administration, if anything at all.

“The administration discounted their reports, told them that this didn’t happen, that they asked for it, that this is boys will be boys kind of behavior. And it it just wasn’t pursued,” she said. “And these women were shamed and they were diminished and they were embarrassed. And so they didn’t continue to come forward.”

Other alleged cases include men and boys squirting water from water bottles onto the breast and genital areas of women and girls, students circulating to each other sexually explicit and inappropriate videos of other students, and a volleyball coach telling students that speech and complaints of sexual harassment would affect their playing time.

Former MSM teacher and coach Meghan Santella shared her deep disappointment with the school with KFOR. She said she quit in 2021 after administration failed to properly address incidents of rape, sexual assault and shaming female sexuality.

“When I brought them to administration, I remember them kind of laughing it off and specifically an administrator once told me like ‘that’s just classic horny high school boys.’ and I was like ‘we’re going to excuse that behavior?'” she shared. “You just need to trust us. That’s what I heard the most. Just trust us. You’re just a young, new teacher. Just trust us to handle this. We’re the professionals.”

MSM’s new principal, Laura Cain, sent KFOR the following statement Wednesday:

“I have been made aware of the lawsuit but am unable to comment on pending legal situations. 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.

Throughout my interview process I was encouraged by the unified efforts of the board, staff, Archdiocese, Sisters of Mercy and parents to bolster the protection and dignity of our students
through the Voices for Human Dignity initiative. The work of this initiative and its Task Force has already begun and will continue to be a priority for our new leadership team. I’m confident in the future of The Mount and look forward to serving our students, families and community as principal.”

PRINCIPAL LAURA CAIN

Bussett tells KFOR that now that the lawsuit has been filed, she’ll deliver it to MSM and they’ll get their opportunity to respond to the case.