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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 26, 2016

U.S. Attorney Ortiz Concludes Investigation into Civil Rights Allegations at Boston Latin School

U.S. Attorney’s Office Reaches Resolution with Boston Public Schools

BOSTON – United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz announced today that the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s independent investigation of alleged civil rights violations at Boston Latin School (BLS) has concluded.  A resolution agreement has been reached with the Boston Public School District (BPS), home of the nation’s oldest public school.  The investigation focused on alleged incidents of racial harassment of BLS students and the school’s response to those alleged incidents. 

In the resolution announced today, BPS has agreed to implement measures aimed at ensuring that complaints of racial discrimination at BLS are handled appropriately.  The resolution is the product of a months-long investigation in which BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang and other BPS and BLS personnel cooperated fully with the USAO. 

After interviewing over 200 people including BLS administrators, faculty, parents, students, and alumni, as well as BPS Central Office employees, and after reviewing thousands of pages of documents from BPS, the USAO determined that there was one violation of Title IV of the Civil Rights Act.  Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against students based on race, among other bases, by public schools. 

The violation involved BLS’s mishandling of its review of allegations that a male student addressed a female black student during class using profanity and a racial slur and threatened to lynch her with an electrical cord. 

The investigation also raised concerns about BLS’s response to two other racially charged incidents and the overall effectiveness of its efforts to create an inclusive school climate for all of its students.  Finally, the USAO found that BLS did not consistently apply policies and procedures relating to student discipline. 

“Boston Latin School is one of the most prestigious public high schools in the nation.  Its rich history and well-deserved reputation for academic excellence make it vital that the school provide a supportive learning environment where students of all races can learn without fear of harassment or discrimination,” said U. S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz.  “All students should feel welcome and safe at BLS regardless of their racial background.  Today’s resolution will help ensure that Boston Latin responds thoroughly and appropriately to complaints of race-based discrimination and provides a dynamic and racially and ethnically sensitive learning space for the extraordinary students who pass through its doors.  We commend Boston Public Schools for its cooperation and we are confident that the District will continue its work to foster an inclusive climate for all students.”

On February 26, 2016, several civil rights advocacy groups and community members, including the Boston Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Massachusetts, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, sent a letter to the USAO alleging a racially hostile learning environment at BLS, racially disparate discipline, and an inadequate response to these concerns by BLS administrators. 

 Under the agreement, Boston Public Schools will adopt a comprehensive strategy to address and prevent racial harassment at, or affecting students at, BLS.  Among other things, the District will:

  • Develop mandatory annual trainings for students, faculty and staff at BLS covering racial harassment, retaliatory conduct, reporting procedures and policies, and cultural competence;
  • Institute a system of restorative justice at BLS;
  • Establish a Diversity/Non-Discrimination Officer at BLS responsible for monitoring complaints of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation; and
  • Conduct an annual school-wide survey of the racial climate at BLS.

This matter was investigated by Jennifer A. Serafyn, Chief of Ortiz’s Civil Rights Unit, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Doreen M. Rachal, Deana K. El-Mallawany, Shelbey D. Wright, Annapurna Balakrishna, and Abraham R. George of Ortiz’s Civil Rights Division.

The Civil Rights Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office was established in 2015 with the mission of enhancing federal civil rights enforcement.  For more information on the Office’s civil rights efforts, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-ma/civil-rights.   

Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Component(s): 
Updated September 26, 2016