In a letter to the school community released Tuesday night, the headmaster of Boston Latin School apologized for not responding more swiftly to racial tensions at the school.
The letter follows weeks of public discussion about student claims that racism is common at the school and comes after a school department investigation found that Headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta had failed to fully address an incident in which a non-black student threatened a black student.
But the letter did not stem calls for Teta’s firing among black leaders, who said Tuesday night they planned to file a complaint with the US Attorney’s office.
In her letter, Teta directly apologized to students and parents, saying she had not lived up to her duty to ensure that the school is a safe learning environment for every student.
“After weeks of self-reflection and frank conversations, I realize that in important ways I have not succeeded. I am truly sorry,” she said.
Meggie Noel and Kylie Webster-Cazeau, the students who launched the public dialogue about race at the elite exam school, had called for Teta to apologize in a statement Monday. In her letter, Teta praised the students, leaders of BLS BLACK — Black Leaders Aspiring for Change and Knowledge — for raising awareness about racial tensions at the school.
Black community leaders agreed at a meeting Tuesday night to file a complaint Wednesday with the US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, demanding a more thorough investigation of the school’s racial climate and the administration’s response to allegations of racism, said Darnell L. Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts.
“We are not going to allow this kind of blasé response to stand,” Williams said.
The group that agreed to file the complaint included civil rights and civic organizations, elected officials, clergy, parents, students, alumni, and retired teachers, Williams said.
“We unequivocally stand behind the courageous ladies at Boston Latin school,” Michael Curry, president of the local NAACP, said after the meeting.
Curry said the consensus among those in the room was that Teta has to go.
Earlier in the day, Curry announced that the Boston branch of the NAACP will conduct an investigation into allegations of racism at the school, a day after schools Superintendent Tommy Chang said he saw no reason to revisit a recent school department review.
“We have an open investigation looking at other parents’ stories dating back as far as we can go,” Curry said.
Curry said the School Department review of racially charged incidents at the school and online was incomplete.
Chang said Tuesday night the investigation “was handled with integrity” but said the NAACP is an important partner in working to ensure a safe learning environment.
“The district looks forward to working with the NAACP and other community groups, and will cooperate with any outside review while continuing to adhere to student and personnel confidentiality regulations,” he said in a statement.
The findings of the School Department’s investigation, released Friday, showed that Latin School administrators properly handled six race-based incidents in the past 16 months but mishandled a seventh.
In that case, administrators failed to fully investigate an incident in which a non-black student called a black student a racial slur and “threatened her with a reference to lynching.” Officials 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.
After Curry called for Teta’s firing Sunday, hundreds of parents of current and past Latin students rushed to Teta’s defense Monday in an open letter.
Curry fired back at what he described as “mostly white Boston Latin School Alumni” in a letter issued Tuesday.
“We find it concerning that they show up now, but did not find it necessary to speak up as generations of black and brown families experienced a hostile racial climate,” Curry wrote.
The association later responded: “We are not responsible for decades of racial hostility. We support the reasoned and reasonable steps that have been taken thus far, and have confidence in the plans to continue them.”
In her letter, Teta outlined some of the efforts that she hopes will eliminate racism at the school and ensure that parents can be certain of their children’s well-being at the school.
Among the plans: BLS BLACK will work with administrators to plan a day-long teach-in; a social justice advisory committee of 38 students will consult with Teta on decisions affecting the school; the school will hold community meetings to discuss race and ethnicity; and related professional development will be held for all faculty members, Teta said.
“This moment causes me, and I hope all of us, to think deeply and take action on many levels,” she said. “BLS can only benefit as we reflect upon our personal beliefs, professional practices, and institutional policies.”Jan Ransom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at email@example.com.