OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Ten current and former students of Mount St. Mary Catholic High School in Oklahoma City and six parents or guardians are suing the private school, alleging it fostered “a rape culture” for more than 10 years.
School officials have known since 2011 that female students have been victims of rape and sexual assault by students, teachers and coaches and done nothing to stop the attacks, according to the lawsuit filed Monday.
“MSM fosters a rape culture that values the safety, bodily integrity, education, and future of men and boys, over that of women and girls,” the lawsuit said.
“MSM did not take reasonable steps to report or stop the rampant rape culture and ongoing sexual abuse ... rather, MSM shamed women and girls who reported,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit said the girls reported the assaults to school officials, including the principal, vice principal and a counselor who each resigned after the allegations began to surface late last year, but did not go further out of fear of reprisals by other students, school administrators and teachers.
Mount St. Mary Principal Laura Cain, who was formally hired Tuesday and officially starts on July 1, said in a statement that she is aware of the lawsuit but cannot comment on pending legal action.
“I have been made aware of the lawsuit but am unable to comment on pending legal situations,” Cain said.
“As an alumna and former parent, I know the pain our school’s community has faced. We must ensure that we maintain a compassionate environment where students can grow and excel.”
The lawsuit also names the school’s board of trustees and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and Sisters of Mercy of America, the cosponsors of the school who are responsible for supervising the school and enforcing school police, the lawsuit said.
The archdiocese learned of the allegations in October, and staff immediately contacted police, according to Page Hauser, Safe Environment Coordinator for the archdiocese.
“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 Wednesday statement.
The legal action's allegations include breach of contract for failing to protect the students, negligence, discrimination and harassment and slander.
The Catholic Church has been rocked by sex abuse allegations in recent years, leading Pope Francis to vow to provide justice to victims of clergy sexual abuse after an independent audit faulted retired Pope Benedict XVI for having botched four cases of abuse when he was archbishop of Munich, Germany.