Two black students from Boston Latin School (BLS) put out a video on Monday, January 18, 2016, complaining about the racism they say exists at BLS. One student, Meggie Noel said: “We are here today to make our voices heard, to show BLS administration and everyone that we refuse to be silenced, and we’re not afraid to speak up.” Kylie Webster-Cazeau the other student in the video gave an example by noting: “When you’re the only black student in your AP US history course and when slavery comes up, they all turn to you.”
They set up the hashtag #BlackAtBls and asked their classmates to share their stories. Some wrote: “5 years later wondering why teachers at Latin still can’t tell their black students apart,” and “When your high school yearbook has a racial slur under your class picture for the rest of your life” and “when your teacher calls you the name of three different black girls in the grade cause y’all “look exactly alike”,” and “when your peers are shocked at your success because they’ve let stereotypes define our degree of intelligence” and as mentioned yesterday, “When POC [people of color] are the majority at every other BPS high school except the one with the most opportunity.”
These are the typical comments written to support the complaints of Noel and Webster-Cazeau that black students are routinely subjected to racial slurs and insensitive remarks and that the administrators are failing to discipline students who engage in this type of racist behavior. The boorish behavior of some students towards other is regrettable and those that engage in it should be punished in accordance with the offense.
The extent of the alleged problem on its face makes it rare as hen’s teeth. BLS at the beginning of the year had 2,439 students: 1,130 male and 1,309 female attending from grades 7 through 12 with each class level having about 400 students. Considering the number of incidents alleged, the period of time over which they occurred, and their seriousness makes me scratch my head at the lack of push back by anyone to the media and special interest diktat that there is a huge problem. Why, then, a federal interference via an investigation?
It should be noted that blacks are not underrepresented in the Boston Public School (BPS) system. While the black population in the City of Boston has remained steady for the past few years at around 22 to 24% the 2014 year statistics of the BPS shows that: 21% of the teachers, 38% of the principals; and 32% of the central office are black. The black student population is 35% black.
It would be nice to hear from those black principals, teachers and staff who work in the BPS what their experience with racism is with respect to the operation of the BPS. Can it be said that the black principals and black teachers are not interested in the welfare of the black students? I would place more reliance on them than what is being put forth by a few students. I have to believe that blacks are heavily involved in decisions that have been made in the BPS.
I would also suggest if there is within the BPS “rampant racism” as some wrote or“racially hostile learning environment” as others have suggested then the finger should be pointed at the many black educators in Boston who have let such a thing foster.
I really do not think that is the case. I have to believe these teachers and principals are doing their best to ensure the black students as well as the others are receiving the best possible education. Hard facts like this show their involvement: “Since 2006, the four-year graduation rate for black students increased more than 10 percentage points to 65.8 percent, while Latino students saw an increase of more than 9 percentage points to 59.8 percent”
However those graduation rates must be put up against the other cities in Massachusetts that rank in the top ten in population with respect to the black graduation ratethere: Worcester (82.2%), Springfield (54.3%), Lowell (91.4%), Cambridge (90.5%), New Bedford (65.2%), Brockton (75.7%), Quincy (92.5%), Lynn (79%), and Fall River (60.9%). Also it must be kept in mind that in Boston one in five students is a special needs student which is in accord with a study that noted 23% of low-income students in Massachusetts are students with disabilities, compared to about 15% of students who are not low-income.
The bottom line is that whatever its faults in the past the BPS are improving on their own. There seems to me that there is a special obligation on the black educators to speak out on this issue. If they believe there is widespread racism that is holding back black children they should speak out. If not, they should also let us hear from them. Their silence on a matter of this importance to them is odd indeed.