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Advocates seek federal race probe of BLS

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

A controversy over racism allegations at Boston Latin School heightened Friday when civil rights groups formally asked US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz’s office to investigate the matter, filing a complaint that detailed accusations of bias at the prestigious exam school.

The five-page complaint, signed by several groups including the Boston branch of the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Massachusetts, described a “shocking” pattern of discrimination at Boston Latin.

Among the troubling charges was an incident in which a teacher allegedly “greeted a black student by using the ‘n-word.’ This incident was not investigated.”

In written statements to the Globe Friday night, the Boston Public Schools and Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office did not address that incident or other specific allegations contained in the complaint.

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Walsh’s office said he “respects the request for a federal review. The mayor is fully committed to launching an independent review and is currently seeking input from the community before detailing next steps. His main focus continues to be ensuring we are fostering a safe and supportive environment for all BLS students.”

Earlier Friday, Walsh said during his regular appearance on WGBH radio that he would welcome a federal probe.

“What will happen at the end of the day, when the results are there, and we find out exactly what’s going on, we’ll be fine,” he said on “Boston Public Radio,” hosted by Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. “I know that the school is super-focused now on making sure that something like this never happens again.”

Walsh also told the station that “adults now are involved in this conversation, some who have no connection to Latin School, zero connection to Latin School, [and] are all of a sudden now demanding different things.”

A spokeswoman for Walsh later said the mayor was not referring to Michael Curry, president of the local NAACP, when he mentioned the outside voices weighing in on Boston Latin.

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BPS said it “has not received an official correspondence from the US Department of Justice regarding an investigation into Boston Latin School. The district will cooperate with any investigation if one is initiated.”

A spokeswoman for Ortiz said Friday that prosecutors had received the complaint and were reviewing it. It was not clear whether Ortiz’s Civil Rights Unit would launch an investigation.

According to the complaint, parents of current and former Boston Latin students have raised concerns about “the disparate discipline and suspension of black students compared to their similarly situated non-black counterparts.”

One incident, the complaint said, concerned the 45-day suspension of a black male student accused of sending sexually explicit messages, and “rumors that the administration sought to prevent him from returning. We are not aware of similarly lengthy suspensions for white students for sexting or similar offenses.”

In addition, another black student was suspended for making remarks that were perceived as racially insensitive to white students, according to the document.

“We are also aware of incidents where suspension proceedings were initiated against black students for off-campus offenses, but not against white students,” the complaint said.

The filing came one day after Boston Latin headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta said she planned to stay on the job and work with students and faculty to improve the school’s racial climate, despite calls for her resignation from some leaders in the black community.

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Her comments followed the recent release of findings from an internal School Department investigation of racial incidents at Boston Latin.

That review found that Latin School administrators failed to adequately investigate an incident in November 2014 in which a male student, described as non-black, used a racial slur and threatened a black female student with a reference to lynching.

The report also found that administrators properly handled six other racial incidents during a 14-month period.

In the filing Friday, the civil rights groups wrote that the male student who made the lynching comment did so while holding an electrical cord. The groups said administrators did not discipline him.

However, the BPS report said the student was disciplined, but that administrators had failed to notify his parents or the victim’s parents.


Jan Ransom and Jeremy C. Fox of the Globe staff contributed to this report.