Duo that sparked Boston Latin race probe decline district internships

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/06/27/duo-that-sparked-boston-latin-race-probe-decline-district-internships/

BOSTON — The two Boston Latin School students whose viral videos alleging racial hostility at the prestigious exam school ultimately led to the resignation of two top-level administrators declined offers to spend the summer interning at district’s Office of Equity.

Richard Weir, communications director for Boston Public Schools, confirmed the development Monday afternoon in a prepared statement.

“The Boston Public Schools’ Office of Equity actively fosters partnerships with student leaders across the district, including members of BLS B.L.A.C.K. and the Boston Student Advisory Council,” the statement noted, referencing the Black Leaders Aspiring for Change and Knowledge organization the two students launched this past year. “Three high school students are interning in the Office of Equity this summer to assist with projects aimed to raise BPS students’ awareness of the importance of eliminating bias and discrimination, and promote efforts on how to contact the Office for assistance.”

“Meggie Noel and Kylie Webster Cazeau, who graduated from Boston Latin School this month, have been active in these efforts, including serving as two of several judges for the Office of Equity’s recent student poster contest,” the statement added, referencing the student activists. “Ms. Noel and Ms. Webster Cazeau declined the invitation to intern at the Office of Equity this summer, deferring to classmates who will still be in high school next year and therefore will be better situated to carry these vital efforts forward.”

The news comes as a wildly turbulent year brimming with upheaval at the nation’s oldest public school comes to a close. Last week, Headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta resigned from her post after leading the school for nine years. A day later, longtime Assistant Headmaster Malcolm Flynn submitted his resignation, capping a career at Boston Latin dating back to 1964.

On Thursday morning, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh along with Superintendent of Schools Tommy Chang visited the school as Walsh held a meeting with faculty members upset over the recent administrative departures. The meeting appeared to have no effect on morale, as immediately after Walsh stepped outside the school to hold a press conference, teachers and administrators abruptly held a competing press conference demanding that Walsh and Chang refuse to accept the two resignations.

As Walsh spoke at a makeshift podium, guidance counselor Zita Cousens stepped in front of him and told assembled media members, “we do not want the headmaster or Mr. Flynn to resign.”

“The faculty is on the front steps making a stand,” Cousens added before walking away.

Flynn spoke during the impromptu press conference and expressed hope that the school would be able to move forward when classes resume in September. On Friday, however, Flynn adopted a sharper tone, ripping Walsh and Chang during a parent rally intended to show support for the embattled Boston Latin administration.

Flynn alleged that Walsh and Chang had effectively placed a gag order on Mooney Teta, preventing her from telling her side of the story to the press as the racial allegations snowballed over the duration of the school year, an allegation that Walsh and the superintendent’s office denied.

Less than 24 hours later, a report ran in the Boston Globe claiming that Boston Latin administrators botched various disciplinary measures in response to several allegations of student-on-student racism, rebutting a claim from Mooney Teta that Chang and the district’s central office had signed off on the various disciplinary measures.

The report hit newstands Saturday morning but was later mysteriously yanked from the Globe’s website.

Immediately after the Globe’s initial story landed, both Walsh and Chang released twin statements. Walsh in his statement did not comment on the apparent leak of disciplinary information to the Globe but Chang in his statement stressed that his office does not condone the release of sensitive information.

“Boston Public Schools does not publicly release confidential information pertaining to students or student discipline that would warrant an invasion of privacy,” Chang stated. “I am troubled by any information shared publicly that constitutes a breach of that confidentiality.”

The Globe later posted an altered version of the story but did not provide readers with a reason for the journalistic overhaul.

The Office of Equity, where Noel and Webster Cazeau were offered internships, had been tasked with investigating many of the racial complaints originally voiced by members of BLS B.L.A.C.K. and others. In February, the equity office released the findings of a probe aimed at examining whether Boston Latin administrators had properly handled a total of seven race-related incidents. The equity office determined that administrators failed to properly handle one out of seven incidents.

The original version of the Saturday’s Globe report outlined a series of alleged violations that had been brought to the equity office’s attention, the details of which were meant to remain confidential. It remains unclear how confidential equity office information managed to find its way onto the pages of the Globe, although a recent Boston Latin graduate’s social media post on Friday outlined an alleged incident featuring matching details from the incident detailed in the updated Globe story:

On Monday, the Boston Herald reported that Walsh had retained the services of Democratic operative Michael Goldman to “troubleshoot the media in the growing Boston Latin School scandal.”

The Herald report also attempted to address the recent leaks of confidential equity office information to the Globe. The Herald quoted Weir, who told the newspaper that details related to equity office investigations are only shared on a “need to know” basis with individuals directly involved with either the inquiry itself or the discipline that may result.

Meanwhile, city and school officials are still awaiting a final report from Massachusetts U.S. District Attorney Carmen Ortiz. After the equity office in February determined that only one out of seven incidents were mishandled by Boston Latin administrators, calls from organizations such as Boston’s NAACP chapter for Mooney Teta’s firing increased, including demands that Ortiz’s office launch an independent investigation.

Activists got their wish when Ortiz announced her office would be conducting a federal probe of Boston Latin.

In their last video, released last month ahead of graduation, BLS B.L.A.C.K. students insisted that the racial climate at the school remained unchanged, despite numerous workshops and assemblies dedicated to confronting racial issues.

The group also vowed that their work would continue and promised that administrators would be held accountable.