School committee votes to close struggling school after misconduct allegations – NBC Boston

The Boston School Board voted to close Mission Hill K-8 School, acting on the recommendation of Superintendent Brenda Cassellius after an investigation found the school had consistently failed to protect students from threats of sexual misconduct and abuse from fellow students for nearly a decade.

What we know from the investigation

The law firm Hinckley Allen, which Boston Public Schools commissioned for the investigation, conducted 65 interviews and collected more than two million documents from October 2021 to March 2022. The investigation revealed sexual misconduct, bullying, poor academic performance, failure to provide special needs services and ensuring fair treatment of gender non-conforming students, went largely unreported and often unaddressed.

Between September 2013 and February 2021, investigators found written evidence of more than 100 incidents of alleged sexually inappropriate behavior by Mission Hill students. Less than half were recorded by the school as formal incidents.

The report also identified a pattern of violence between students and, in some cases, threats or the brandishing of weapons. Many staff members also reported being physically assaulted.

A culture of fear, retaliation and bullying at school for people who spoke out, according to the report.

“The perceived and real pressure within the small community not to speak out against the Mission Hill school has led several parents to describe the school as resembling a cult, particularly under the leadership of MH Admin 3 “, we read. “[A parent] referred to the Mission Hill school as “The Fight Club – Mission Hill Against the World”.

“It is devastating to see the experience that families in our school district went through, that young people suffered horrific abuse and that there was a continued and inappropriate lack of reporting. ‘got angry,’ Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said.

Boston Public Schools Superintendent recommends permanent closure of Mission Hill K-8 School after years of allegations of sexual and physical misconduct.

The investigation also revealed that the school had failed to competently teach basic academic skills, such as reading, writing and math to many students, and had consistently under-identified needs. specialized and under-provided special education services to students who needed them.

The Boston superintendent recommended the school be closed.

Despite leadership changes in 2019, investigators found that the school’s culture had not changed. The findings led Superintendent Brenda Cassellius to recommend to the Boston School Board to permanently close Mission Hill School at the end of that school year.

Glory Acevedo said her children had been bullied and physically assaulted at school.

“Bullying yes, a lot of bullying and I spoke to the teachers about it and nothing was done. I feel like they don’t really care about the students.”

Haddy Bonilla was upset to learn that the school might close.

“I don’t even know what’s going to happen because my child has an IEP [Individualized Education Program] and they have the best IEP program and the best teachers my child could have.”

The 200 students currently assigned to Mission Hill would be assigned to different schools for the 2022-2023 school year.

Allegations of sexual and physical misconduct between students at Mission Hill K-8 School prompted Boston Public Schools and Superintendent Brenda Cassellius to call for the school to be closed.

“We need to make sure that every young person involved in this school and throughout our district has the support they need. First and foremost, it’s about making sure that the trauma that the potential closure of school and the conversations with this report, now public, are there at school,” Wu said. where our young people will enroll for the next school year are being taken throughout the district. We reserve places at area schools, and are confident that there are places available at high quality schools in that area. »

“The tragedy is that this has to happen. If only eight years ago these allegations, these types of abuse, had been dealt with appropriately, it would not have come to this,” Daniel Heffernan said.

He represented five families with six students who were assaulted in a lawsuit against the school in 2017. The case was settled in August 2021. He said they tried to bring those concerns to the administration of Mission Hill School, and that they had been ignored. Staff were punished when they tried to speak, he added.

“I think it’s sort of gratifying for parents who are interested in some sort of reform there and making things better that a broader look has been taken at what’s been going on there. “, did he declare. “And the hope is that Boston Public Schools will look at this school or other public schools, look at what happened here and learn from it and prevent it from happening again in the future and do a better job. work to respond to these kinds of situations and allegations.”

The superintendent’s recommendation to close Mission Hill School must go to the school committee for a vote. If approved, the school would close at the end of the school year.

See Hinckley Allen’s full report below:

Reaction from students and staff

Pupils and staff arrived at Mission Hill School last week unsure of its future.

“I don’t think closing the school is a solution, probably the teachers and people who work here, probably sit down and figure out what’s really going on,” said Glory Acevedo, the parent of one. Mission Hill student.

Acevedo said she heard reports of bullying, which she reported to teachers. But she said nothing was ever done.

“I feel like they don’t really care about the students,” she said.

Acevedo has a fifth-grade student at school and a daughter who attended Mission Hill who were both bullied.

“They should have acted a long time ago because my daughter used to come here and she blew herself up right outside the school,” she said. “The school has a lot of problems.”

The school district said staff members directly linked to the report’s allegations are no longer employed by the district or are on leave.