Equity & Diversity

Feds Investigate Alleged Civil Rights Violations at Nation’s Oldest Public School

By Corey Mitchell — March 03, 2016 1 min read
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The U.S. attorney’s office in Boston is launching an investigation into possible civil rights violations at Boston Latin School, the nation’s oldest public school.

The U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz, said her office will conduct an investigation into the recent complaints of racism at the highly competitive exam entrance school, which was founded in April 1635.

In January, two black students at the school launched a social media campaign to bring attention to their complaints of racism at the school, which they said were ignored by school administrators. Race relations have long been testy at the school, which has seen its share of black and Latino students decline in recent years, according to the Boston Globe and other news organizations.

The Boston school district’s office of equity investigated, looking at alleged incidents of racism over an 18-month period. The investigation found school officials’ actions were appropriate in some cases, but the report criticized the way they handled others, including an incident in which a black female student said a non-black male student called her a racial slur and threatened her with a reference to lynching.

The investigation also made recommendations for moving forward, saying the school needs a new anti-racism initiative.

Some community leaders said the report didn’t go far enough. Eight civil rights organizations and community members, including the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Boston Branch of the NAACP, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, submitted a complaint to Ortiz’s office that raised concerns about harassment and systemic discrimination at the school.

In a statement released by her office, Ortiz said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and schools Superintendent Tommy Chang pledged full cooperation with the investigation.

Here’s a letter that Boston Latin Headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta shared with the school community last month after the office of equity investigation.

BLS Memo to Community

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.