US Attorney finds civil rights violation at Boston Latin School

Boston, MA--9/26/2016--US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz (cq) announced that a civil rights investigation found a pattern of race-based harassment and discrimination at Boston Latin School.  The exterior is photographed, on Monday, September 26, 2016. 
Photo by Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
Topic:   27BLS
Reporter:  Milton Valencia
US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz announced Monday that a civil rights investigation found a pattern of race-based harassment and discrimination at Boston Latin School. –Pat Greenhouse / The Boston Globe

Concluding a six-month federal investigation, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz announced Monday that her office had found one civil rights violation and multiple instances of racial harassment at Boston Latin School.

Ortiz’s office said the investigation also “raised concerns” about Boston Latin’s efforts “to create an inclusive school climate for all of its students,” amid allegations dating back to January of racism by students at the country’s oldest public school.

According to the report, the civil rights violation involved Boston Latin’s “mishandling” of allegations that a male student called a female black student a racial slur during class and “threatened to lynch her with an electrical cord.”

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After a group of black students at Boston Latin launched a social media campaign calling out a pattern of racism at the 371-year-old school, a Boston Public Schools internal investigation in February found the school did not adequately investigate the threat.

The report Monday found the school violated Title IV of the Civil Rights Act by mishandling its review of incident. Title IV prohibits discrimination against students based on race, among other bases, in public schools.

The federal investigation, which was launched in March, also found that BLS inadequately responded to two other racially charged incidents and was inconsistent in its discipline of students.

According to the full federal report published by The Boston Globe, investigators found Boston Latin administrators “generally treated student reports of racial harassment and insensitivity with insufficient seriousness and paid inadequate attention to the school’s racial climate.”

“BLS has failed to comply consistently with BPS’s policies and procedures regarding student discipline, which may have resulted in inconsistent treatment of students of color,” the report said.

According to Ortiz’s office, several civil rights groups, including the local NAACP, sent a letter to federal officials in February, one week before the investigation was launched, alleging “racially hostile learning environment at BLS, racially disparate discipline, and an inadequate response to these concerns by BLS administrators.”

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In June, the school’s headmaster, Lynne Mooney Teta, announced her resignation in the midst of the allegations.

Ortiz’s office said Monday they have also reached a resolution with Boston Public Schools to improve the school’s handling of future complaints of racial discrimination.

The agreement includes mandatory annual training on reporting racial harassment for all Boston Latin community members, an annual student survey on the school’s racial climate, and a new diversity/non-discrimination officer position.

“Today’s resolution will help ensure that Boston Latin responds thoroughly and appropriately to complaints of race-based discrimination and provides a dynamic and racially and ethnically sensitive learning space for the extraordinary students who pass through its doors,” Ortiz said Monday in a statement.

Ortiz’s office said their investigation included more than 200 interviews with Boston Latin community members, as well as Boston Public School administrators. According to the report, Boston Latin and Boston Public School officials, including Superintendent Tommy Chang, fully cooperated with the investigation.

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