Hallowed Boston School Rocked by Racial Controversy

Christopher Turque, Fox News, June 28, 2016

The nation’s oldest public school–and the alma mater of five signers of the Declaration of Independence–is embroiled in a racial controversy that may be its biggest test in nearly 400 years.

Boston Latin School, founded in 1635 and still one of America’s most prestigious high schools, has undergone an administrative shakeup, faces growing demands from community leaders and is the subject of a federal investigation. The controversy arose after two black students claimed on YouTube that racism courses through hallways and classrooms, and the administration turns a blind eye.

“The fact that our administration failed to publicly denounce this behavior, or even say something to the students making the comments that was effective, has created an unsafe and racially hostile learning environment for students of color at B.L.S.,” recent graduates Meggie Noel and Kylie Webster-Cazeau, members of a group called “Black Leaders Aspiring for Change and Knowledge,” said on the video.

The video sparked investigations by the school district and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as well as an ever-louder chorus of demands for resignations and reforms from civil rights groups. Faculty members have blamed Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for refusing to defend the administration.

Last week, Headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta and Assistant Headmaster Michael Flynn, who worked at the school for more than half a century, resigned.

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Their ousters were seen in some quarters as a cowardly sacrifice to an angry mob and in others as a necessary first step toward reclaiming the vaunted reputation of a school that has long purported to be a color-blind “escalator of upward mobility” for Boston’s poor and middle-class kids. Incidents involving alleged racism have occurred, but hard evidence that it is systemic or tolerated by the administration is elusive.

The school district investigation prompted by the video probed seven alleged incidents involving students or faculty and found all but one were handled appropriately by Teta’s staff. That case involved a boy who allegedly called a black girl a racial slur and threatened to lynch her while holding up an electrical cord. Investigators say Teta failed to inform the parents of both students. Teta says the white student was disciplined but details are kept confidential.

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Another black student says during a class discussion of racism in “Huckleberry Finn,” her white teacher came up to her and asked, “what’s up, my n—-r?” The girl’s mother says Teta called in district investigators who found the teacher’s language “inappropriate,” but not grounds for discipline.

Curry says the same girl was mistreated a second time, when the school called police to the building, after she wrote online she felt like “shooting” a teacher. The student was suspended for 10 days, a penalty Curry likened to “criminalizing” black student misconduct.

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