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Newton officials investigate letter sent to school employee as hateful act

Black Lives Matter demonstrators on Washington Street in Newton last June protested the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.
Black Lives Matter demonstrators on Washington Street in Newton last June protested the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Newton school officials said they are investigating a hateful letter sent late last month to a Brown Middle School staff member of color whose job includes developing Black History Month lessons in the building.

The letter was directly addressed to the Brown staff member, who picked it up in his school mailbox. Inside the envelope was a small note that consisted solely of the letters “ALM” in large block letters, which school officials said stood for “All Lives Matter.” It did not have any signature. The staff member received the message Jan. 29.

Newton police are investigating the source of the letter, which school officials declared was an act of hate targeting the employee.

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Brown Middle School’s principal, Kimberly Lysaght, notified families about the incident in an e-mail Feb. 1.

“We see this note as an anonymous threat directed toward him, and also as an attack on the safety of all students and staff in this building and the work we are committed to as a school district,” Lysaght said in her e-mail to the school community. “We are horrified that it has happened in a place that should always be supportive and nurturing.”

Lysaght said she is committed to finding out who is responsible for the letter to the school worker. She asked anyone who has information to reach out to the Brown Middle School administration.

Newton Police Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker on Tuesday said the letter is still under investigation.

Newton Superintendent David Fleishman, who reported the incident to the School Committee on Feb. 8, called the letter a “direct assault” on the staff member, as well as an attack on Black Lives Matter, the community, and “the values that we hold dear.” Fleishman released a version of the statement in a newsletter sent out Monday.

The incident was reported Monday by Newton Patch.

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Fleishman told School Committee members the Brown Middle School staff member was frightened and in a lot of pain after receiving the letter.

The Brown school community was standing by the employee, Fleishman said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do as a community if one of our leaders on our anti-racism work can’t feel safe as he works on important School Committee and district goals,” the superintendent said.

Fleishman said the incident showed Newton is not immune to incidents of hate.

“This kind of hate and these hateful acts don’t just occur in other places, they occur in our city and in our school district,” he said.

Lysaght said the Brown Middle School is working with Kathy Lopes, the district’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion, to help plan healing opportunities for the community.

The school also consulted with Families Organized for Racial Justice, a local advocacy group, to coordinate efforts for the greater Newton community.

When the principal notified the community in her e-mail, Lysaght said she was writing “from a place of outrage” due to the incident.

“I expect that the Brown Middle School community will come together, not only to support our colleague, but to stand in support of our values as an anti-racist school community - a community that takes action when hate is revealed,” Lysaght said.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.