Walsh steps into Boston Latin Black Lives Matter debate
By Evan Lips | January 25, 2016, 20:29 EST
BOSTON – Mayor Marty Walsh entered a cauldron of simmering racial tension at Boston Latin Academy on Monday as students donned black clothes in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Walsh’s virtual involvement in the issue – via Twitter – at the city’s most prestigious public school appears to have been provoked:
.@KrisKream Leadership isn’t about using Twitter. It’s about taking action.
— Mayor Marty Walsh (@marty_walsh) Jan. 25, 2016
The students’ show of solidarity followed last week’s posting of a YouTube.com video in which two student leaders of an organization calling itself BLS B.L.A.C.K., for Black Leaders Aspiring for Change and Knowledge, alleged that the school doesn’t adequately deal with racially charged incidents.
The duo, Meggie Noel and Kylie Webster-Cazeau, urged classmates to use the Twitter hashtag #BlackatBLS to raise awareness of incidents and issues they say exist at the school.
“Black-at-BLS – when your white peers are using Twitter and Facebook to put out racial slurs and negative things about students of color and you print out the tweets and give them to your headmaster in a binder,” Webster-Cazeau says at one point in the video, suggesting some action was expected. But, she adds, Headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta did nothing about it.
Noel, the BLS B.L.A.C.K. president, also took to Twitter on Sunday to urge classmates to participate in the demonstration.
— Meggie Noel . (@megosaurus_rawr) Jan. 25, 2016
Mooney Teta didn’t respond to a message requesting comment but did post a note on the school’s website Monday.
She cited strides the school has already taken in “becoming a more equitable community” but acknowledged that recent student feedback has shown her “that we are falling short in meeting our mission for some of our students.”
Mooney Teta went on to describe several proposals the school will take up, including establishing a more open dialogue and clarifying the best ways for students to report degrading or inappropriate behavior.
“On a personal note, I have been moved this week by the demonstrable passion and commitment of so many students and faculty to making BLS a better place,” she noted. She said the Black Lives Matter movement is “an important moment in the continued evolution of Boston Latin School.”
The Boston Herald reported Monday that the mayor has promised a district-wide investigation into race relations in the city’s public schools.
Parents were cautioned last week about “inaccurate and unfair” news reports about the Boston Latin leader in an email to parents from Jim Montague, the school’s guidance and support services director, according to UniversalHub.com, a Boston news website.
On Saturday, the site posted what it said was Montague’s email.
In the message, Montague says he is “very upset” over reports that suggest Mooney Teta is “insensitive to students of color at our school.”
Montague went on to list several examples of Mooney Teta’s efforts to promote racial equality and awareness, including her work to ease access to advanced placement classes and to create a school environment “where respect for others is not only encouraged but required.” City Councilor Tito Jackson (D-Roxbury) took to Twitter to support the students.
— Tito Jackson (@titojackson) Jan. 25, 2016
Monday’s demonstration was the first to take place at an area public school, although the topic has already drawn significant attention at nearby institutions.
A November incident in which strips of black tape were placed over the framed portraits of many black professors at the law school triggered an outcry and demands from student activists for further faculty diversification. The students also demanded more mandatory race-related courses in the law school’s curriculum. The incident also prompted the Harvard University police to open a hate-crime investigation.
On Sunday, the Crimson campus newspaper reported that the probe had been closed earlier this month without identifying the perpetrator. It said Wasserstein Hall, the law school building where the incident occurred, will be outfitted with security cameras that were lacking in the area where the portraits hang.