A Boston Latin School teacher who allegedly addressed a black student using the n-word is under investigation after the student and her mother asked for the woman to be fired in a meeting with the prestigious exam school’s headmaster.
“The Office of Equity is committed to investigating any incident of racism or bias it receives,” the school district said in a statement yesterday. “The Boston Public Schools’ Office of Equity, as part of its ongoing investigation into this matter, reached out to the family and attempted to gain permission to speak with their child as soon as they became aware of the allegation.”
The probe comes as the U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the racial climate at the prestigious school. The incident is the latest to come to light after two students in January launched the #BlackAtBLS social media campaign to spotlight racial tensions at the school and alleged administrative inaction.
Rosalind Wornum and her daughter, Destinee, a junior at BLS, said an English teacher allegedly said the racial slur in October 2014 during a lesson on Mark Twain’s classic novel “Huckleberry Finn.” Destinee said the teacher addressed her by saying, “What’s up my (n-word)?” during the discussion and then asked, “How does that make you feel?”
“I didn’t know what to say and I was at a loss for words,” Destinee Wornum said. “She goes, ‘How did that make you feel?’ And my reaction was — I honestly would have gotten suspended from school, because I honestly wanted to get up and fight you. And then she just laughed. She just laughed and then just kept going.”
Rosalind Wornum said the white English teacher showed unforgivable poor judgment for not asking her daughter in advance if it would be OK to make such a charged statement in front of her mostly white classmates.
“We don’t want our kids to go to school and be uncomfortable with one another, let alone with administration, with the teachers,” Rosalind Wornum said.
Destinee Wornum said she requested a meeting with BLS Headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta after the incident happened but never heard back.
“At that point I was like, if they’re not doing anything for me by this point, then I don’t want to risk my grade or my place in the school,” she said. “So I was just like, maybe it’s best for me to just stay quiet.”
Rosalind Wornum said Teta told her she could not remember why her daughter wasn’t granted a meeting after she complained.
The mother emerged from the meeting with Teta yesterday hopeful that action will be taken against the teacher, but frustrated with the number of times Teta deferred to the Office of Equity for answers. She said Teta called the teacher’s remark to her daughter “unacceptable.”
She added that she was surprised to learn that Teta already knew about the incident involving her daughter before yesterday’s meeting as one of several BLS incident reports the Office of Equity is reviewing.
“I was just shocked that she knew and we didn’t get a call,” Wornum said. “That was my main concern.”
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