[This article was originally delivered to subscribers of our Education Watch newsletter. Sign up now to receive Education Watch directly in your inbox.]
A newly hired executive assistant at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics comes from another school accused of ignoring sexual harassment complaints.
The Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics this month announced it has hired Talita DeNegri, who resigned from Mount St. Mary Catholic High School in December 2021 after an investigation revealed the school under her leadership failed to address student complaints of sexual abuse.
Her hire comes just weeks after the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics in Oklahoma City was served with a lawsuit from a former employee, alleging sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and a toxic and misogynistic culture have gone unchecked for years.
The Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, a publicly funded, residential school for academically gifted juniors and seniors, was the focus of an Oklahoma Watch story published Monday.
According to the lawsuit, filed by Keli Pueblo, who worked at the school for six years: a male administrator made explicit comments about women’s bodies; a former dorm director was hired despite having been charged with driving under the influence and having two temporary restraining orders against him; male professors spoke sexually toward students, faculty and staff; a longtime vice president had multiple affairs with women on campus, including in his office.
The school on Aug. 2 announced on their website and Facebook page that DeNegri was hired to work with President Tony Cornforth, who in June was named the school’s new president. Cornforth declined to be interviewed by Oklahoma Watch but, in a written statement, said he was “absolutely committed to continuing a professional, positive, and healthy workplace at OSSM.”
At Mount St. Mary’s, a parochial school in Oklahoma City, DeNegri and other school leaders were accused of fostering a toxic environment, covering up reports of sexual abuse and blaming victims, according to The Oklahoman.
Students in 2022 filed a lawsuit against Mount St. Mary’s, alleging the school fostered a rape culture and the victims didn’t know it was a systematic problem until the story was reported in the news.
A federal judge Monday granted the school’s motion to dismiss, agreeing with the school’s legal argument that because more than two years had passed, the statute of limitations has run out. In the judge’s order, he noted that the students can amend their claims.
— Jennifer Palmer
- An elementary school in Union Public Schools has received bomb threats for two straight days after a video of the school’s librarian was posted on Libs of TikTok and shared by the state superintendent. [Public Radio Tulsa]
- Tulsa superintendent steps down in an attempt to preserve the district’s local control amid state takeover possibility. [Tulsa World]
- Police ticket hundreds of students for minor infractions at school. Some have criticized the practice as criminalizing behavior that should be handled in the principal’s office. [The Oklahoman]
- Driven by teacher shortages, Zoom-in-a-Room instruction never ended.[The 74]
New on Oklahoma Watch
Jennifer Palmer talks about her investigation into years of sexual harassment complaints at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics; Lionel Ramos covers what legislators learned from the problems faced by Afghan refugees; and Paul Monies updates the status of Oklahoma’s blacklisted financial firms. Ted Streuli hosts.
Hosted by Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, and members of the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, the study revealed how existing inequities in Oklahoma related to housing, employment and means of accessing government assistance programs exacerbated the challenges of resettling Afghans.
Former employees of the state’s most elite public high school contend there’s a culture of harassment, gender discrimination and misogyny that’s been kept quiet with settlements, pay outs and intimidation.
Help Us Make a Difference
Oklahoma needs high-quality investigative journalism. That is our mission at Oklahoma Watch. We produce stories that hold government and public officials accountable and that make transparent what some prefer to keep secret. We depend on financial support from readers like you to sustain our coverage. Help us make a difference.