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Report says BLS did not adequately probe racial slur

Students left Boston Latin School at the end of a school day last month.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Boston Latin School administrators failed to “adequately investigate” after a male student used a racial slur and made a remark about lynching to a black female student in November 2014, according to a report that the Boston Public Schools released Thursday night.

The school department announced last month that it would investigate the racial climate at Boston Latin after leaders of a student advocacy group, BLS BLACK, alleged administrators failed to discipline students for racist behavior.

“The review found BLS did not adequately investigate the [slur] incident . . . nor take appropriate steps to ensure the support and safety of the targeted student,” the school department said in a statement that accompanied the release of the highly anticipated findings. The report did not recommend discipline for any BLS staffers.


According to an executive summary, a male student, described in the report as nonblack, called a black female student a racial slur on Nov. 7, 2014, and “threatened her with a reference to lynching.”

While administrators disciplined the male student, the summary stated, they did not notify his parents of the incident or his punishment. The school also failed to notify the victim’s parents.

“The investigation determined that administrators did not apply the school’s Code of Conduct or internal practices on progressive discipline appropriately, nor did they take sufficient steps to ensure the support and safety of the targeted student, even when her parents later voiced concerns about the school’s response,” the summary stated.

The report could not substantiate allegations of additional violations of BPS nondiscrimination policies that involved racially charged social media postings, according to the summary.

In one instance, on Nov. 25, 2014, BLS BLACK members presented Boston Latin administrators with a binder containing offensive tweets purportedly written by Latin students in reaction to the news that Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.


Headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta and Assistant Headmaster Sherry Lewis-da Ponte determined the most offensive tweets were not written by Latin students. However, Teta gave verbal warnings to four students who posted insensitive tweets such as, “The only racism left in the media is reverse racism, there is no coverage of black on white violence, only the opposite,” the summary stated.

In another case of “race-based” social media postings in January after the release of a BLS BLACK video, the summary said, no discipline was issued because none of the posts could be attributed to Latin students.

The school department said that in total, there were six race or ethnicity-based disciplinary incidents at the school between November 2014 and January of this year, including the lynching comment and the Ferguson-related tweets.

Administrators’ actions in the four other incidents were found to be appropriate, the report said.

Attempts to reach the leaders of BLS BLACK and the Boston chapter of the NAACP for comment were unsuccessful.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh commended the Boston Public Schools in a statement for “taking a hard look at these concerns.”

“All students must feel safe and comfortable in school, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation,” Walsh said, adding that BPS has been “a leader” in implementing anti-bullying laws. “However, it is critically important that these policies are implemented consistently in all schools and followed on a daily basis. I look forward to supporting the district and Boston Latin School in their efforts to build a more inclusive and supportive climate.”


Superintendent Tommy Chang added, in a statement, “This is deeply personal to me as someone who had similar experiences growing up as an immigrant in the United States. I am fully committed to ensuring that no student should ever feel unsafe in any of our schools.”

BPS said in a statement that Boston Latin released a plan last month for improving conditions. Among additional recommendations put forth by BPS officials, the school department said, are instituting a racial climate audit during the current academic year and again next year; immediately launching school dialogues on race and ethnicity; and working with the district to increase hiring of black and Latino teachers.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.