Boston Latin activists say racial climate hasn’t improved
By Evan Lips | May 23, 2016, 18:32 EST
BOSTON – As a federal investigation continues to probe whether Boston has adequately responded to reported racial incidents in Boston Latin School, student activists have once again posted a video online over the issue, claiming that the climate hasn’t improved.
In the video, which follows one posted over the winter that raised public awareness on the topic, the activist group that calls itself Black Leaders Aspiring for Change and Knowledge at BLS singles out the exam school’s leader, Headmaster Lynn Mooney Teta. The group claims that Teta has failed to attend lunchtime conversations regarding race and that the administration has never mentioned the group’s campaign during school assemblies on the subject:
— BLS B•L•A•C•K (@blackatbls) May 23, 2016
This week, Boston Latin began a series of racial workshops each morning from Monday through Wednesday in lieu of regular classes. Last week, the school held a day’s worth of student-led race workshops on Friday.
When reminded of the workshops in a conversation on social media late Sunday, BLACK at BLS strangely insisted that this week’s workshops won’t involve discussions about race.
“Where is #BlackAtBLS mentioned or anything about race or ethnicity?” the group asked over Twitter, while attaching images showing copies of the workshop agenda.
The theme of the mandatory workshops is titled “BLS Talks About Racism.”
A look at the agenda shows that students would be asked a series of questions about their backgrounds, including characterizing their home neighborhoods. The agenda notes that the questions were highlighted during a 2003 ceremony at Minnesota’s Carleton College which featured Beverly Daniel Tatum, who the school said was “a clinical psychologist who focuses her teaching and research on the psychology of racism.”
Carleton also described Tatum as “the author of the groundbreaking book “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”
Another part of the agenda lists an hour-long lecture from Vernon Wall, who describes himself on his website as a “founding faculty member and facilitator at the Social Justice Training Institute.” He refers to that organization as one that “provides diversity trainers and practitioners with an intensive laboratory experience where they can focus on their own learning and development to increase their multicultural competencies.”
I love my Negro nose.
— Vernon A. Wall (@vernonAwall) May 13, 2016
Student – Social Justice Training Institute https://t.co/p4ft0fpmD2
— Vernon A. Wall (@vernonAwall) April 14, 2016
After being informed of the backgrounds of Tatum and Wall, and questioned specifically as to whether they believed the workshops wouldn’t address issues of race, the group offered up a puzzling response.
“Be careful, sir, your ignorance is showing,” the group replied.
During the video, one of the student activists at the public high school claimed that at a previous 15-minute school assembly, “not once was #BlackAtBLS mentioned” while another student complained that there were “random facilitators” leading other discussions.
Looking ahead, a student said, “2016 is going to be out soon and this administration needs to know that we are going to hold them accountable.”
“This movement has not died down and it will continue to push forward even after we leave,” the student continued.
Members of the group also asked the public to use Twitter to comment, using the hashtags #BlackAtBLS and #WhereIsLMT, a reference to Teta, who they say hasn’t responded to their demands.
In February, the Boston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called for Teta’s dismissal over what it said was a poor response to claims that racism was running rampant at the school. Activist students also claimed that those who allegedly hurled racial epithets, either on the campus or away from the school using social media, hadn’t been given sufficiently harsh punishment.
In March, responding to a joint written complaint penned by the NAACP and various other civil rights groups, Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, began an investigation into racial harassment and discrimination allegations at the school.
In response, the city school district praised “the leadership and courage of the students of BLACK at BLS for standing firm in values that matter most to our city and voicing their concerns about race.” District leaders also maintained that Boston schools are “committed to fostering a safe and welcoming learning environment.”