Boston Latin School, the oldest public school in America, is now under a federal investigation over allegations of racial discrimination.
Carmen M Ortiz from the US Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday that she will launch an independent probe into the historically prestigious school, founded in 1965, Wednesday amidst accusations of civil rights violations.
The most damning action relates to the lack of action taken by the school against a male student who threatened racial violence against a then 15-year old black female student in November 2014.
According to Milton Britton Jr, of Dorchester, his daughter told him in June of 2015 a secret she had kept for months: A male classmate in November 2014 held an electric cord in his hand saying “I should lynch you with this,” while also using a crude racial epithet.
She told her father that she didn’t want to tell her parents, knowing they’d get upset, but on that particular day she’d learned that another classmate had been suspended merely for calling somebody “an enemy” leaving a double standard too obvious to ignore.
“How could this incident have happened and the school not reach out to us?” Britton, 45, said during a recent interview at the family’s home — the first time the family has spoken publicly about the incident.
“It’s not just the fact that he said it and threatened her life, but it is the inaction of the people in power,” said Lori Britton, the girl’s mother.
Many local leaders in the Boston black community are calling for the firing or voluntary resignation of headmaster Lynn Mooney Teta. Many families worry for the safety of their children, over what they view as voluntary negligence with regards to taking these allegations seriously and addressing them appropriately.
The teenager told her parents that when the lynching threat occurred, she told a teacher who then notified two assistant headmasters, at least one of whom had the authority to take disciplinary measures.
According to Lori Britton, the boy was told to write an apology letter, which he promptly ripped up when the girl did not accept it immediately.
When the Brittons came forward to complain, Headmaster Teta downplayed the incident, describing the male as a “silly 16-year old.”
“I was never pulled into a meeting to talk about how I felt about it and how to handle it in my day-to-day life,” she said. “They didn’t display any caring about me. It seemed like they cared more about him not getting in trouble.”
Citing “privacy laws” school officials indicate that the male student in question was disciplined, but they cannot elaborate on specifics.
One can only hope that the Britton family is able to receive more comprehensive support for the US Attorney’s Office, and that this serves as an example educators nationwide that failure to address racism in education is unacceptable.