Metro

Hate letters to black staff shake Milton Academy

Milton Academy is a private college prepatory school.
Barry Chin/Globe Staff/File
Milton Academy is a private college prepatory school.

MILTON — Racial hate letters targeted two black staff members at Milton Academy shortly after a meeting held to discuss diversity, and investigators believe the anonymous messages came from someone inside the prestigious private school, according to law enforcement authorities and others familiar with the matter.

One letter was left for the academy’s K-8 multicultural director after a meeting he held in late October with faculty and staff to discuss diversity issues, according to a person with knowledge of the issue.

Another letter also contained offensive material about the academy’s lower-school director, said the person, who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the incident.

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“I believe this was perpetrated from the inside,” Milton Police Chief Richard G. Wells Jr. said in a separate interview. “It’s a sensitive investigation.”

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On Monday, Todd Bland, head of school at Milton Academy, sent parents an e-mail saying that the author of the messages remains unknown to authorities despite a “thorough investigation” by campus safety officers, who had been “in conversation with local law enforcement.”

Bland also told parents he was disclosing the matter weeks later “because conversation about this incident has increased and we thought it prudent to share the facts.”

The e-mail, which did not identify the targeted staffers, followed questions late last week from the Globe to Milton Academy about the anonymous messages.

Bland wrote to parents that “this fall we learned of an act that occurred in our K-8 community that directly conflicts with the culture and values we work hard to cultivate at Milton. Two adult members of Milton K-8 received an anonymous letter that included hurtful and hateful sentiments targeted at them,” Bland wrote.

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The head of school added that “this act angers and saddens us all. . . . This event should stimulate each of us to acknowledge our responsibility to speak up for inclusion and against both large and small expressions of hate, ignorance, or intolerance.”

Bland also wrote that school officials had “shared this information” with faculty and staff just before the Thanksgiving break. However, one member of the upper-school faculty said last week that he had not heard about the incident.

Bland concluded by writing, “Together, we will continue our focused work on developing a safe, inclusive, diverse community, an environment where we will act with integrity, empathy, and respect.”

After notifying parents on Monday, Bland distributed the e-mail to faculty and staff.

“In keeping with our guiding principles of upholding our institutional responsibilities while respecting the needs and wishes of those individuals involved,” he told faculty, “I ask that you do not share this message more broadly.”

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Bland said in a written statement to the Globe that the school “responded immediately in ways that both honored the individuals’ personal wishes and upheld our institutional responsibilities, legal and ethical.”

Academy officials declined to disclose the content of the messages and the results of an internal investigation.

The academy’s officials discussed the incident with students in grades 6 through 12 in a morning assembly Monday, but younger pupils were not told about the matter directly by Milton Academy administrators. Their teachers were asked to relay questions they received to Bland and two other top school officials.

“If a parent seems notably worried, let me know so that I can reach out to him or her,” the K-8 principal, Marshall Carter, wrote to faculty and staff. “This fall has been tough in K-8, at a time in our nation that also feels very hard. But we will make our way through this and emerge stronger and more inclusive as a community.”

Milton Academy, with nearly 1,000 students, is proud of its diversity. Students of color make up 37 percent of the K-8 population and 43 percent in the upper school, according to the academy website.

“To us, growing and learning among individuals who share widely divergent life stories, and appreciating their respective cultures, is an invaluable aspect of a true education,” the website says.

The elite, picturesque school has long educated American leaders, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Governor Deval Patrick. The academy also has grappled with controversy in recent years.

In 2005, three sophomores and two juniors, all members of the boys’ hockey team, were expelled after a school investigation found that they requested and received oral sex from a sophomore girl in a school locker room.

Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at macquarrie@globe.com.