The Mission Hill K-8 School allowed students to be sexually and physically abused, harassed, and bullied for years, as school staff ignored repeated parental allegations, according to a 189-page external investigation.
In a letter to the Boston Public Schools community, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said she called for multiple investigations last fall after receiving additional complaints last summer.
Cassellius is recommending that the School Committee vote in a special session next week to close the school at the end of the school year. Cassellius said that a change of leadership at the school would not change the culture of the school due to, "...lack of accountability shown by school leadership leaves no hope that simple changes in leadership or governance structure would address the pervasive, underlying issues that contributed to the unsafe conditions at the school."
Shortly before this school year began, BPS removed the school's two leaders. That decision was made after an internal investigation found credible evidence that the school didn't take appropriate action after complaints were filed about the mistreatment of at least one student during a 5-year period starting in 2014.
In July 2021, attorneys representing two parents whose daughters previously attended the school on Child Street, said they reached a $650,000 settlement with BPS due to their lawsuit that alleges that not only did the school's principal do nothing to stop one a student from sexually attacking other students, but that she fired a teacher who disobeyed her order not to file a report with the state Department of Children and Families. The principal at that time was Ayla Gavins, reported UniversalHub.com.
Below is Cassellious' letter to the BPS community. The Boston Globe has more coverage of the 189-page investigation.
Dear BPS Community,
Nothing is more important than the safety, health and wellbeing of our BPS students. This fundamental principle is at the very core of our work to ensure an excellent education for the students we serve.
When serious issues come to light that we believe compromise the safety of our students, we have a duty to act. Such is the case with the Mission Hill K-8 School, which has been the subject of multiple allegations of pervasive physical and sexual abuse, harassment and bullying of students.
Upon receiving additional complaints at the end of last summer, I promptly launched several investigations, including a review of specific allegations, and a more extensive inquiry of the school, conducted by the law firm Hinckley-Allen. The investigation examined the school’s culture, its governance structure and instructional practices. That investigation began early in the school year and I received the findings this month.
After an exhaustive review of the Hinckley-Allen report and a School Quality Review conducted by School Works, and with careful consideration of all possible options, I have made the difficult decision to recommend to the School Committee that the Mission Hill K-8 School close in June 2022 at the end of this school year. I will ask the School Committee to meet in a special session next week to vote on the recommendation.
Nothing about this decision is easy. We understand the disruption families will face as they choose a new school that best matches their childrens’ needs. We also know that the Mission Hill community might be divided on the appropriate next steps that should be taken. However, as the investigative findings make clear, the culture of the school, which allowed these events to continue over time, is beyond repair. Furthermore, the lack of accountability shown by school leadership leaves no hope that simple changes in leadership or governance structure would address the pervasive, underlying issues that contributed to the unsafe conditions at the school.
BPS is committed to minimizing the upheaval that Mission Hill families will experience, and will work closely with them to facilitate the smoothest transition possible in the upcoming school year. To ensure the safety of students still enrolled at Mission Hill, the additional oversight and support measures implemented when the charges first came to light will continue throughout the remainder of the school year.
While this decision does not impact you or your school community, we are sharing the information with you as part of our commitment to transparency and accountability. This is a difficult moment for BPS, yet it pales when compared to the harm children experienced as a result of the school’s inaction. This moment demands decisive action. Our promise at BPS has always been to put students first, and in making this decision, we are keeping that promise.
Dr. Brenda Cassellius