They probably would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling teens
For the past six months, since Boston Latin School students posted a video on YouTube pegging their campus as a reservoir of racial intolerance, several parties have impugned the famously elite institution. That goes for the brass at Boston Public Schools and City Hall as well as US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, who in March opened an investigation into some of the allegations brought—including racist remarks made by both students and instructors, as well as “disparate discipline and suspension of black students compared with their similarly situated non-black counterparts,” according to a complaint filed with federal prosecutors by community and civil rights groups.
Though the public has yet to see if any criminal or civil violations of the Civil Rights Act will officially stick to BLS, this week’s bombshell resignation of Latin School Headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta shows that people in power are paying more than lip service to this issue. Considering the range and degree of cringeworthy stories that have surfaced about cold administrative negligence under Mooney Teta, it seems that her departure is a win for families of color at BLS. But the extent to which the culture there changes will be unknown until school resumes in the fall under new leadership. In the meantime, it’s critical for both BPS and the media to remember that the powder keg that popped in January had been brewing for decades and that the world outside of Latin School would still have no idea about any of this if not for some extremely brave students.
That’s the first, and certainly the most important, thing to remember about the departure of Mooney Teta: Prosecutors may be slowly edging out the #BlackAtBLS movement in headlines, and Ortiz will probably get more and more credit for the toppling as further revelations unfold, but to paraphrase the many foes of Scooby Doo and Shaggy, the headmaster probably would have gotten away with it if not for those meddling teens.
While we’re preemptively correcting the emerging master narrative, please let the record show that we were also watching BLS closely. Around this time last year, freelance investigative journalist Nate Boroyan began digging into the treatment of Latin School students with learning disabilities, who represent less than 2 percent of the exam school’s population. Earlier this month, in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, we published a 4,000-word feature, “Unaccomodating: A BLS Story,” about a young woman with special needs who was apparently forced out of the school on troubling terms. The plight of special ed students is a complicated addition to the Latin School saga, but it’s a relevant one, and we encourage larger news outlets to consider it in their coverage. The larger story about BLS isn’t over just because of one administrator’s exit, and it’s about much more than just one kind of discrimination on campus.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.