Chang says probe into Boston Latin School is closed
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Superintendent Tommy Chang said Monday he sees no reason to reopen an investigation into the racial climate at Boston Latin School and reiterated support for the school's headmaster after the Boston branch of the NAACP called the findings of the first investigation incomplete.
Chang met with Michael Curry, head of the local NAACP, for about an hour Monday afternoon, a day after the NAACP called for the firing of headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta, who Curry says mishandled racially charged conflicts within the school.
Chang said Curry shared with him the frustrations and ire expressed by parents, community residents, and students who attended a meeting last night about racial allegations at Boston Latin School. But he saw no need for a new probe, he said.
"He was sharing things with me," Chang said. "But I've said to him if there are any specific incidents that we are not aware of, please come directly to me. Have families come directly to the Office of Equity. We're going to look at anything that comes to us."
Curry could not be reached Monday evening.
The findings of the school department's initial investigation, released late last week, showed that Latin School administrators properly handled six race-based incidents in the past 16 months — the time period the report focused on — but mishandled a seventh.
In that case, administrators failed to fully investigate a "non-black" male student's threat to a black student, did not properly discipline the aggressor, and provided insufficient support to the victim, according to an executive summary. The full report has not been made public.
Through a school department spokesman, Teta declined to be interviewed.
The school department investigation was called too narrow in scope by some in the black community and by Meggie Noel and Kylie Webster-Cazeau, Latin School seniors who launched the #BlackAtBls social media campaign that spurred a dialogue on race at the school and prompted the school department investigation.
Curry, president of the Boston NAACP chapter, said Sunday that the investigation's findings left out some race-based incidents at the school, including a teacher allegedly referring to a student using a racial slur. Curry also said the NAACP has no faith in Teta's ability to act in the best interest of students.
Even as some decried Teta's leadership, others came to her defense.
In a letter to Chang and Mayor Martin J. Walsh, more than 80 parents of current and past Latin School students lauded Teta, writing that "she has demanded and delivered significant changes from an environment not always predisposed to support her . . . she has built an environment that encourages all students to put forward their best efforts."
A letter to Chang from the trustees of the Boston Latin School Association, an independent foundation supporting students and faculty, also praised Teta, saying she "is the right person to lead Boston Latin School during this challenging period."
City Councilor Matt O'Malley, a 1997 Latin School graduate, said he has known Teta for about a decade and has full confidence in her leadership. He said Teta takes concerns about racial conflicts within the school seriously.
"They are important concerns, and she is the right person to address them and make Latin School a robust, strong, and welcoming place for all," O'Malley said.
Walsh said Monday night that he would not comment on the call for Teta's firing until Chang briefed him on his meeting with the NAACP. Walsh is scheduled to meet with the group himself on Tuesday.
In a broadcast on Boston Praise Radio, criticism of Teta was strong, with guests calling for a reprimand of Teta, or Teta's removal.
Darnell L. Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, said the controversy at the elite school has unified the city's black community.
"I don't think it's just her," he said of Teta, likening the situation to the series of high-profile racial incidents at the University of Missouri that led to the resignation last fall of its president and chancellor. "We have a headmaster and an administration who are tone deaf."
Former city councilor Gareth Saunders expressed displeasure with the investigation's findings and what he calls inaction by Walsh and Chang.
"I'm a supporter of the mayor, and I thought their response was weak," he said.
Noel and Webster-Cazeau, the Latin School students, have not called for Teta's firing, but issued a statement Monday asking her to apologize to students.
"We haven't heard much from her specifically acknowledging the racial discrimination students have experienced," they said. "She also owes it to parents who entrust their children every day in her care to apologize for her lack of urgency and ineffectiveness in initially addressing our concerns."