NAACP branch calls for ouster of Boston Latin’s headmaster
The Boston branch of the NAACP called for ousting Boston Latin School’s headmaster following a five-hour meeting Sunday on the results of an investigation released Friday into the administration’s response to racially charged incidents at the school and on social media.
Headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta failed the students at Boston Latin School, branch president Michael Curry said, and “for that she needs to go.”
“We no longer have faith that she can act in a way that is in the best interest of the students at Boston Latin, particularly when it comes to safety,” Curry said Sunday night after the meeting. “We don’t come to this lightly.”
Curry said he held off calling for Teta’s termination until the release of the report, which the group reviewed in depth Sunday afternoon.
Asked about the call for Teta to be fired, Boston Public Schools spokesman Dan O’Brien said Sunday night that “Superintendent [Tommy] Chang is looking forward to meeting with NAACP leadership in the immediate future to discuss any concerns people in the community have raised in recent days.”
Curry slammed Teta’s handling of an incident on Nov. 7, 2014, in which a student called a black female student a racial slur and “threatened her with a reference to lynching.”
Curry said the NAACP brought the incident to the attention of the Office of Equity, and said Teta knew about it, but the case was not communicated to other officials within the school district. He said police made a report on the incident.
“The handling of that case by Teta and lead administrators in that building warrants termination,” Curry said. “There was an effort to protect this young man’s reputation at the risk of this young lady’s safety.”
While administrators disciplined the male student, the report stated, they did not notify his parents about the incident or tell them about his punishment. The school also failed to notify the female student’s parents.
Curry said his group spoke with at least 20 current and former Boston Latin students, dating back to the 1970s, and their families about racism at the school.
Parents have said that Teta has been unresponsive in the past with regards to similar incidents and has failed to acknowledge the problem or talk about race, Curry said.
He said the report also failed to include other information collected from social media and the probe did not look at other incidents at the school.
Curry said he heard during the meeting about an incident in which a teacher referred to a student using the N-word.
Last month, when two Boston Latin School students publicly denounced racially charged incidents at the school and on social media, they spurred a community often divided on other issues to unite.
In the days following the students’ appearance on a YouTube video, clergy, elected officials, and civil rights leaders quickly rallied in their support and launched an effort to combat a racially charged climate at the city’s most elite public school that some say has spanned generations.
“Folks have certainly coalesced around this issue,” said the Rev. Charles Richard Stith, longtime civil rights activist and former ambassador to Tanzania, on Sunday afternoon. “It’s wrong for young people who are trying to get an education to be subjected to this sort of treatment. That’s why you see people coming together in the way that they have.”
The allegations surfaced when students Kylie Webster-Cazeau and Meggie Noel initiated a social media campaign about race relations at the school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The results of the investigation into the complaints released Friday found that school administrators had responded appropriately to several racially charged incidents at the school and on social media.
But black leaders have said the investigation’s scope was limited and planned community meetings this week to discuss the issue.
“It’s pretty unusual for us to have one mind and to feel like there’s a problem that needs to be addressed,” said Jacqueline C. Rivers, executive director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies. “This kind of atmosphere is detrimental to the achievement of black students.”
Rivers said the community galvanized around the issue because racism at the school has been a decades-long problem and “the response from the administration seems to be inadequate at every turn.”
The community should continue to work together, Rivers said, and formulate a strategy.
Some say the situation at Boston Latin School offers the community a chance to support the next generation in efforts to defeat racism.
“It’s a good thing people see this as an opportunity to address larger systemic issues,” said Rahsaan Hall, director of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, which is representing a student at the school. “No one wants to see our children in an educational setting exposed to the type of treatment these kids have been exposed to.”
The Rev. Egobudike E. Ezedi Jr. of the Empowerment Christian Church in Dorchester said his congregation includes a Boston Latin School student, who sought guidance from him as to how to address racism at the school and whether to speak up about it.
“It’s our young people that are affected by this and they stepped up and took the bull by the horn and said, ‘We’re not going to take this injustice,’ ” Ezedi said. “It has reminded adults of what we are called to do and need to do.”
Darnell L. Williams, chief executive of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, echoed those sentiments.
“These are the best and brightest students. . . . Shame on us if we don’t do what we can to support them,” he said.