Mother of victimized Boston Latin girl praised school in October

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BOSTON A Boston Latin School student’s mother, who has joined a rising chorus demanding the dismissal of Headmaster Lynn Mooney Teta over her response to alleged racial incidents, sang a much different tune last October about the elite institution.

The mother, Lori Smith Britton, told the Boston Globe in an explosive front page story Wednesday that “the inaction of the people in power” Teta and other administrators means they should “face consequences that are tangible.”

The Globe report focuses on an alleged November 2014 incident in which Britton’s daughter, a minor who wasn’t named, claims a boy in her Spanish class held up an electric cord in front of her and said, “I should lynch you with this.”

The story ran the same day that Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said in a statement that she is launching a federal civil rights investigation into multiple allegations of racist incidents at the school.  

Britton told the Globe that her daughter finally revealed the incident to her in June. The mother faulted school administrators for failing to contact her or her husband about what had happened.

But on Oct. 4, a video posted on the school’s website shows Britton praising the school as a perfect match for her daughter during a New England Association of Schools and Colleges panel discussion.

“When we were thinking of a secondary school for our oldest daughter we were looking for an environment that would match her drive, her sort of competitive spirit and her commitment to academic excellence and we have absolutely found that here at Boston Latin School,” Britton said. “We are fortunate to have BLS in our city and our city is fortunate to have BLS in this community.”

Britton also spoke highly of the school’s support for its students, adding that “with such a large student class experience, the school has worked overall to design structures that provide support for all students, both in the academic and affective aspects of their experience.”

“Numerous student-driven and faculty-advised programs, such as peer mentoring, the RESPECT (anti-bullying) initiative and the student council promote an explicit mission of providing support to fellow students. Parent, alumni and community involvement at the school is high,” Britton said.

Britton also praised the school’s commitment to diversity.

“We take great pride in the diversity of our student body, which is approximately 47 percent white, 30 percent Asian, 10 percent black and 12 percent Latino. Every neighborhood in this city is represented on our roster and 32 percent of students live below the poverty line.”

The recorded comments represent a stark contrast to what Britton and her daughter told the Globe about the incident that had occurred almost a year earlier, or how upset the parents felt on learning about it and the administration’s response in June.

“I was never pulled into a meeting to talk about how I felt about it and how to handle it in my day-to-day life,” the daughter said, according to the Globe report. “They didn’t display any caring about me. It seemed like they cared more about him not getting in trouble.”

Britton, a 1988 graduate of the school, could not be reached for comment Wednesday night. Calls to the phone number linked with her address indicate that the number is out of service.

The school has declined to comment on matters involving students.

Ortiz, the top U.S. Justice Department official in the state, said the probe into the exam school came in response to a joint written complaint from eight civil rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Boston branch and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, which she received on Feb. 26. In her statement, the prosecutor said the complaint “raised concerns about alleged civil rights violations at Boston Latin School.”

“We will conduct a thorough investigation into the recent complaints about racism at BLS and will go where the facts lead us,” Ortiz said. “Once our investigation is complete, we will share our findings at the appropriate time.”

Ortiz also thanked Boston Superintendent of Schools Tommy Chang and Mayor Marty Walsh, noting they “pledged their full cooperation.”

Last month, Boston Public Schools detailed the findings of a review of reported racial incidents by its Office of Equity. The investigation determined that while six were dealt with properly, a seventh the one involving the Brittons’ daughter was not.

“The review found BLS did not adequately investigate the incident, did not adequately discipline the student, nor take appropriate steps to ensure the support and safety of the targeted student,” the report said.

Contact Evan Lips at [email protected] or on Twitter at @evanmlips.