Boston Latin parent group plots to pressure administrators
By Evan Lips | June 8, 2016, 19:49 EDT
BOSTON – A series of leaked emails may shed more light on the intentions and strategies of a group of parents who seek dramatic changes at the prestigious Boston Latin School.
The informal organization, which calls itself Parents Promoting Equity and Diversity, planned a June 16 meeting with top district administrators, according to a recent batch of emails. The group already has held a series of meetings, and the emails show members have discussed how to reach out to the media about the situation at the city exam school.
The emails suggest that the parents are looking to influence local media outlets like the Boston Globe by casting the school as beleaguered by racism, and to suggest that a complete overhaul of Boston Latin’s leadership team, beginning with Headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta, is needed. In March, U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz began a probe into complaints of racial harassment and discrimination tied to the school. A month earlier, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called for Teta’s ouster over what it described as her poor response to alleged racial incidents.
On May 26, parent Kristen Day wrote other members to express her agreement “about the group speaking with the Globe regarding what has taken place this year.”
“Here’s my pitch, I have learned two things about BLS from this situation,” Day wrote, referring to the school. “First, the climate at BLS is not safe for students (much worse than I thought).”
“And second the only way to bring about change is to go outside of BLS and BPS,” she said, referring to the Boston Public Schools district. Day then asked the group whether or not “it would be a good idea” to invite a Globe reporter to a meeting it held on Monday.
Day hasn’t responded to a message requesting comment.
In another email, also dated May 26, Boston Latin parent Nancy Kressin proposes a multi-point plan for improving the school.
“I am focusing on this because I got some advice from a senior BPS person, who suggested that BPS might reasonably ask, ‘what would solve the problems at BLS?’” Kressin wrote, addressing what she described as an attempt to “think constructively about what I/we would want to see change at the school.”
“When I responded that many parents think that the solution is to remove the headmaster (Mooney Teta), the response I got was that rather than making it about one person or a leadership team, it’d be better to define how the whole situation needs to be changed, or different, for example what are the qualities of a leader, or actions, that need to be different?”
Kressin hasn’t responded to a message requesting comment.
Boston Latin has been at the center of racially-charged allegations over the past academic year. The situation reached a fever pitch coinciding with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18, when a student group calling itself “BLACK at BLS” released a video ripping Teta, who is white, and other administrators for a perceived lack of action in the face of numerous alleged racial incidents involving fellow students.
An internal investigation subsequently conducted by the school district’s Office of Equity examined 16 months’ worth of complaints that ranged from allegations that Teta acted indifferently when presented with a “social media binder” that included almost 200 print-outs of racist tweets.
The investigation later determined that the most offensive tweets “were not written by BLS students” and instead were composed by “students enrolled in two different school districts in Illinois.”
The tweets, according to student members of BLACK at BLS, were posted “in reaction to the decision not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.”
The district probe concluded: “There was no evidence that BLS students retweeted or otherwise disseminated these messages.”
The investigation did identify however four students who “wrote what the school determined to be racially insensitive tweets,” such as, “The only racism left in the media is reverse racism, there is no coverage of black on white violence, only the opposite.”
According to a summary of the investigation, Teta conducted “individualized interventions” with the four students in lieu of suspensions or other forms of disciplinary action.
What the investigative summary didn’t mention was that Teta was suspended for two days in April, according to a report by the Boston Herald. The suspension came after the U.S. Department of Justice, acting on demands from organizations like the NAACP’s Boston branch and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, demanded a full-scale investigation into the allegations plaguing the school.
With the final month of classes approaching, BLACK at BLS activists released a video claiming that the racial climate at the school had not improved.
In the clip, a student says “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. Boston Latin seniors are due to graduate Monday.
Read the entirety of Kressin’s email here: