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Melrose schools agree to work to prevent discrimination

The Melrose Public Schools have reached an agreement with the US government to work to prevent discrimination and to properly investigate complaints after a teacher made racially insensitive remarks to an African-American student, the superintendent said Tuesday.

In a statement, Superintendent Cyndy Taymore said she signed a resolution with the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights on Dec. 17 on behalf of the school district. It will remain in effect through December 2018.

As part of the resolution, the civil rights office will assist Melrose schools with programs and policies for preventing discrimination, according to Taymore.

"Going forward, we will actively investigate all reports of discrimination, harassment, or hostile environments and will take the necessary steps to remedy situations as needed," Taymore said.


The announcement comes several months after the federal office found that an unnamed Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School student was "subjected to harassment based on race" during the spring of 2014.

A complaint filed with the civil rights office in the fall of 2014 alleged that a teacher "made derogatory remarks to one of her assigned students, directed at the student's race," and that school officials did not adequately review the matter.

Taymore declined to identify the teacher. But in an interview, Taymore said the teacher was placed on administrative leave after the incident and then transferred to Melrose High School before "we all came to a mutual decision" that she should retire. The teacher no longer works in the district.

Asked what the instructor said to the student, Taymore said, "She made a reference to African-American history" that was inappropriate and could be considered discriminatory, though her remarks were not "overtly derogatory."

Taymore said she could not directly quote the teacher's statements because officials could not determine precisely what she said from witness interviews.


In her statement, Taymore said a harassment officer was appointed in October to ensure complaints are properly investigated and to help staff with training "to better maintain a respectful learning environment for all students."

In a separate matter, another former Melrose teacher filed a complaint with the civil rights office last summer alleging that she was fired for refusing to separate a group of black students who regularly sat together in her class. That investigation is pending.

Steven A. Rosenberg of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Brenda J. Buote contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.