Update: South Boston description posted.
An attempt to teach eighth graders at Boston Latin School how to deal with stereotypes ended today with school officials apologizing to students, parents and school staffers from two heavily White neighborhoods.
As part of a civics class for 13- and 14-year-olds in the eighth grade, students were assigned to write about stereotypes about their neighborhoods - with the goal of then discussing and dealing with those biases.
Many of the descriptions were taped up around the school library, where somebody photographed one about West Roxbury and posted a copy in one of the West Roxbury Facebook groups where people love to commiserate about how the rest of the city hates them, causing an immediate uproar that included one person demanding that the student be punished for writing the following:
To understand West Roxbury ...
To understand West Roxbury, you would have to be white and rich. The blue lives matter flags on almost every damn house. Those local stores on Centre street that are mad expensive for no reason. The Trump supporters. The anti-maskers. The old white people. The slightly racist white people. The Trump supporters. The anti-maskers.
To understand West Roxbury, you really gotta be there. The kids that play lacrosse, baseball or hockey, or all of the above. The CVS that laid off my sister. The Ohrenburger which I attended for 1 and a half years. The white girls who only wear white air forces. The Irish people. The people who get starbucks daily. That one star market I like time and time. The YMCA where Bryce Johnson gets those big gains. The 35 bus which I take almost every day. To understand West Roxbury you really gotta be rich and white.
In e-mail today, Head of School Rachel Skerritt and Associate Head of School Jonathan Mulhern apologized to the BLS community, if not the more outraged members of West Roxbury Facebook groups. Their e-mail referenced an apparently similar description by another student about South Boston:
To the BLS Community:
It came to our attention earlier today that student assignments written about various neighborhoods in Boston as part of an 8th grade civic action project were recently posted in our school library. The intent of the assignment was for students to write personal pieces that consider stereotypes about the neighborhood in which they live, with the ultimate aim of countering biases from within and outside of their communities. However, the impact, particularly in some selections depicting West Roxbury and South Boston, was one where students saw stereotyped and disparaging statements about communities to which they belong. The exhibit has been removed, though we know that this does not remove the harm that was done.
We deeply regret and apologize to members of our school community who were hurt or felt less welcome at BLS as a result of this display, and we thank those who have reached out to our school staff to learn more and express their concerns. While our committed and reflective educators aim to create conditions for students to share their lived experiences with one another, we recognize that displaying these pieces created an inaccurate perception that the viewpoints expressed are widely held or even endorsed by the school itself. This serves as a teachable moment as we continue to build our culturally responsive practices in curriculum and pedagogy.
One of Boston Latin School's greatest strengths is our diversity: our students live in every neighborhood of the city, speak over 40 languages, and represent numerous nationalities, racial identities, religions, and family histories that enrich our school and our city. Every day, our educators seek to affirm each student's pride in all of who they are, and create opportunities for our students to learn about their classmates' identities and backgrounds. We strive to ensure that students are able to discuss issues in our community in a way that honors the complexities of these topics, and that any public sharing of our thoughts and conversations fosters a safe and inclusive space for learning. Unfortunately, in this instance, we fell short of that objective.
Less than a week ago, our community shared in a unifying experience as our students revived our in-person annual Asian Night. Even through our year of remote learning, we found ways to celebrate diverse experiences. We will keep lifting up opportunities to affirm the cultures, identities, and common humanity of all students. The vital need for these efforts is demonstrated over and over again, not only within the walls of BLS, but as we witness division, hatred, and incidents of unimaginable violence across the nation.
Thank you to each of you for every instance that you contribute to the rich fabric of our community, and please reach out with any concerns. We'll be back tomorrow with our Friday updates, and appreciate your continued support.