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The Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics has strict rules for students on its Oklahoma City campus, but as we reported Monday in our latest investigation, the school is devoid of rules to protect students from sexual harassment. No Title IX, the federal law preventing sex discrimination in education. No employee handbook. And just two pages of agency rules, none of which address employee behavior.

In public schools, students with disabilities are guaranteed accommodations through the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. But not at OSSM, which is publicly-funded through state appropriations but does not receive federal money.

Britney Reed, who graduated in 2015, said this is another systemic problem at the school that should be addressed.

Reed has a disability called brachial plexus palsy, a birth injury that caused paralysis of her right arm. She said school staff and administrators would meet to discuss her disability but Reed was excluded from those conversations. She also grew up low-income, and felt like the school was ill equipped to address those needs.

OSSM made some accommodations for her, like providing a private room for tests, Reed said. Once, an OSSM guidance counselor introduced her to disability services in Oklahoma City. Another time, they bought her clothes when they thought she couldn’t afford them.

“These interventions are what people with means think that low-income people need or what largely non-disabled people think that disabled people need, and my voice didn’t matter,” Reed said.

She acknowledged it's possible some students with disabilities and low-income students felt valued at the school, but it wasn't the case for her.

Reed said initially, she was hesitant to speak to Epic Text Books. But after reading our investigation into sexual harassment allegations at OSSM, Reed felt her experience fit into a pattern of mishandling minority cases at OSSM.

Reed said she hopes the school, which she credits with inspiring her love of science, particularly biology, takes a hard look at its systemic issues. “Despite its flaws, OSSM does a lot of good,” Reed said.

Questions, comments, story ideas? I can be reached via email and direct message. Also: the state Board of Education meets today starting at 9:30 a.m. It will be shown live on the department's Facebook page.

— Jennifer Palmer

Recommended Reading

  • The state Department of Education will investigate a southwest Oklahoma City school district for hiring a principal who performs as a drag queen in his spare time. [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Is college worth it? New research and polling show more and more Americans are questioning whether a college education pays off. [The Daily by The New York Times]
  • America's poor math performance isn't funny anymore. It's a threat to the nation's global economic competitiveness and national security. [The Hechinger Report]

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