Here’s what you need to know ahead of Thursday night’s vote:
Boston Public Schools has paid a large settlement to five Mission Hill School families
In August 2021, a federal judge agreed to a settlement for BPS to pay $650,000 to five families who alleged Mission Hill failed to properly respond to a student’s sexual assaults on other students from September 2014 to November. 2016, allowing their six children to be victimized, court records show. All the children involved were 4 or 5 years old in 2014.
BPS did not admit any wrongdoing and the settlement came after the judge ruled the parents’ allegations had enough weight to “shock the conscience”. The families of two students who filed the original lawsuit each received $88,527 after attorneys’ fees, and the parents of the other four children received slightly less damages for each child.
A law firm has been hired to investigate allegations that the school mishandled its response to reports of bullying
After the district agreed to pay the families the $650,000 settlement, BPS fired four Mission Hill teachers and hired a law firm to investigate allegations that the school mishandled its response to the reports. student bullying and other misconduct. Few details have been released about what exactly the bullying allegations entail and the roles of educators.
Cassellius placed the school’s two ‘co-lead teachers’ or co-heads, Jenerra Williams and Geralyn McLaughlin, on paid administrative leave in August after a neighborhood survey, separate from that regarding the settlement, found credible evidence that the school failed to take appropriate action after two parents reported that their child had been the victim of persistent bullying, resulting in mental and physical harm, between 2014 and 2019. These incidents were separate from those included in the settlement.
This led to more parents coming forward with separate serious allegations, which led Cassellius to place two more teachers on paid leave in early September. She then hired the law firm Hinckley Allen to conduct a “top-down” investigation and appointed a temporary replacement headmistress, Valeria Lowe.
The results of the investigation are so damning that Cassellius proposes the closure of the school
An investigative report released last week revealed institutional failings that have endangered children for years at Mission Hill, including neglected reports of sexual abuse and bullying.
Investigators said in their report that they learned of even more allegations of bullying and sexual misconduct at school, as well as other examples of officials’ lax response to those reports. They said there was “widespread indifference” from administrators to allegations of serious misconduct and called the school a “failed” institution.
Following the report’s release, Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden said his office was reviewing the report for “all crimes or incidents where mandatory reporting of sexual assault allegations occurred or did not occur.” did not take place”.
And then ?
Spurred on by Cassellius’ recommendation after the survey results were recently released, the Boston school board will vote Thursday night whether to close Mission Hill at the end of this academic year. Other city leaders, including Mayor Michelle Wu, said closing the school was the right move. On Wednesday, Boston City Councilman Michael Flaherty also asked the BPS to provide more information about Mission Hill, including a breakdown of the total number of sexual assaults and school bullying incidents that have been reported. reported to the school district.
Cassellius also said the report will drive district reforms, including greater oversight of pilot schools such as Mission Hill, which have more freedom over curriculum and hiring, to ensure those schools follow the rules. required.
The Great Divide team explores educational inequality in Boston and across the state. Sign up to receive our newsletterand send ideas and advice to email@example.com.
Adria Watson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @adriarwatson.