Top administrators from the nation’s oldest public school resigned last week, just over five months after two Black high school seniors launched a social media campaign highlighting long-standing racial insensitivity within the school’s structure.
Boston Latin School Headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta announced her resignation last Tuesday, followed by one of her deputies, Assistant Headmaster Malcolm Flynn last Wednesday. Though the two administrators lamented at how Boston’s top public high school had been “unfairly judged,” many saw their resignations as a win for student activism, especially given that the institution is as hallowed as BLS.
“It is unfortunate that at a time when Boston Latin School has made tangible progress to combat racism in our community through constructive dialogue fostered by the student body, others outside the school continue to condemn us, denounce us and hold us responsible for district policies and practices over which the school has no control,” Mooney Teta said in her resignation letter.
Once Kylie Webster-Cazeau and Meggie Noel—the two seniors who initially raised concerns about racism— launched their #BlackatBLS social media campaign, it sparked a public outcry and a chain of events that eventually led to a school district investigation and an ongoing federal probe from the federal Department of Justice. The scrutiny also brought a division within the school between those who supported Mooney Theta and those who felt she had not done enough to deal with race issues, including local civil rights leaders.
Both Webster-Cazeau and Noel told Ebony.com in February they were surprised at the impact of their activism (at the time the district was preparing to launch an investigation), but their goal was to always bring awareness.
“We just want to be students and not worry about race,” said Cazeu-Webster. “That’s what this all comes down to.”
In a statement released through their school organization #BlackatBLS, they announced their shock at the resignations, but also held firm to the organization’s beliefs.
“We want to emphasize that [Mooney Teta’s] decision is completely independent of the mission of the #BlackAtBLS movement, which is to increase racial inclusion and race-explicit dialogue at Boston Latin School,” the statement said. “Change and reconciliation are on the horizon and we will continue to hold our school, now our alma mater, accountable…”
Their success at bringing attention to a school issue is a triumph for student activism, which has been on the rise in recent years, according to a study released this year by UCLA. The annual study showed nearly one in 10 incoming freshman students expects to participate in student protests while in college. Of that, Black students were the most likely to expect to protest, with 16 percent reporting that they had a very good chance of demonstrating for a cause while in college—5.5 percentage points higher than in 2014.
For now, the school district has named Michael Contompasis, a BLS graduate and former headmaster, as the interim headmaster as it also awaits final result of the federal probe.