The Strange Silence of the Boston Public Schools Black Teachers and Principals.

() wisecatTwo 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.

5 thoughts on “The Strange Silence of the Boston Public Schools Black Teachers and Principals.

  1. I am an educator of color in the Boston Public Schools and I feel that we are under attack. In the past couple of years, I have noticed that the majority of teachers being let go for supposedly incompetence, have been black teachers. Why is that?? If the majority of teachers in the Boston Public Schools are white, and the students who are failing standardized test in the Boston Public Schools are black and latino, then who is to blame? Who are the ones educating them primarily? So then why are black educators being targeted when they represent such a small number educators in the school system? I am forever grateful for those two girls who brought the issue of racism at Boston Latin to light. God bless them!

    1. Diana:

      Thanks for writing. It is nice to hear from someone inside the Boston Public School system who has a different perspective on the ongoing problems that have surfaced. That is an interesting point that you raise and one I did not consider. I suppose that was because I recognized that there have been black superintendents and black and latino administrators and teachers that I assumed if the education being provided the black/latino students was deficient then those in the system would have raised the issue. I thought that the system had substantially changed with respect to minority students from the days when I was involved in the busing case back in the 1970s when it was mostly a white run system and that if something was not right it would be corrected.

      You tell me not so fast. I assume you are saying that there would not be such a great disparity in those admitted to Boston Latin School if the education at the lower grade levels was being done properly. That is a good point and something to consider and try to ascertain the reason. You seem to suggest that white teachers are not educating the black/latino students in the same manner as the whites. I happen to believe teaching is an extremely hard job and requires much dedication; it is difficult for me to accept that one who would enter into that profession would not treat everyone equally.

      I cannot explain why black teachers are being let go in greater numbers than white but wouldn’t there be some remedy for that? You also seem to suggest that somehow black/latino administrators and teachers are somehow being muzzled. How could that be with all the protections in place to ensure that the past discriminatory practices are no longer continuing?

      As for the two young Boston Latin students I wondered how they could perceive there was racism at the school when the black/latino teachers did not notice it; I also wondered why there are so many others of their race who had no complaints. I worried when the NAACP and others asked for federal intervention knowing that that has always proven to bring about something much worse than existed prior to it becoming involved.

      I look upon this as all of us being on the same American boat – black, white, latino and Asian. We must do our best not to separate into rival camps. I am well aware of the history of animosity among us. I had hoped and thought that much of that was behind us seeing in my children a much different view of the world than the generation before would have had.

      Again thanks for writing. I’d like to explore this more with you to get a better understanding of the matters from another point of view. Thanks also for being an educator.

  2. I apologize GOK, you are right.Instead
    of saying Matt prosecuted people of
    color under Nixon’s faux war on drugs,
    drugs like heroin and cocaine that were
    deliberately brought into the ghettoes by
    the CIA and local police to destabalize these
    communities like the Great Britain-Chinese Opiate wars

    The result of these wars on people of color like any wars
    is to create post traumatic stress upon the civilians.
    As you and I already know as smart criminal justice
    consumers PTSD in children create learning disabilities.
    as an example see
    Post-traumatic stress disorder in children – NCBI – National Institutes of Health › NCBI › Literature › PubMed Central (PMC)
    by D KAMINER – ‎2005 – ‎Cited by 62 – ‎Related articles
    Keywords: Post-traumatic stress disorder, children and adolescents, diagnosis, …. of information-processing and learning in the development of PTSD.


  3. Hello Matt, Great Article, This strange silence you write about is deafening. I remember that years ago there existed a Girls Latin and a Boys Latin. The Girls Latin was located in Codman Square in Dorchester. That school is now called Latin Academy after Girls and Boys Latin were joined into one school. Why hasn’t the academy been heard from? Again more of your mentioned silence. Maybe it’s time to go back to Boys and Girls Latin School and let the Educators get back to Educating.

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