Boston superintendent calls for Mission Hill school to be closed over ‘pervasive’ sexual misconduct

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City school Superintendent Brenda Cassellius dropped a bombshell at Wednesday night’s school committee meeting by recommending that the committee permanently close Mission Hill K-8 School at the end of this academic year.

It followed a stunning report that found that children as young as kindergartners at the Jamaica Plain school were the victims of student sexual misconduct and bullying – some of them for years.

Closing the school is the same conclusion of a report – commissioned by the superintendent and undertaken by the Boston law firm Hinckley Allen – that outlined “systematic and pervasive accounts of student-on-student sexual and physical misconduct that began as far back as 2014.”

The report concludes these serious incidents were not addressed appropriately by school personnel and confirm “multiple systematic reporting failures” by school employees, who are mandated reporters of child abuse. The full report, redacted to protect the identities of victims, is now available on the BPS website.

Cassellius said reading the 200-page report was one of the most difficult things she has had to do in her more than 30 years in education.

“Swift and urgent action is needed,” she told the committee. “Far too many children have been harmed, and … there is a school culture that allowed this.”

Boston Public Schools, however, booted reporters present in a Zoom session with community members before the committee meeting, preventing the press from hearing what Cassellius — who is leaving this year — had to say.

Deputy Superintendent of Education Drew Elkinson said at the committee meeting the bullying and abuse extended from at least 2014 to 2019.

“The school’s limited attempts to address this put victims and perpetrators in the same room,” with an adult as a moderator, Elkinson said.

Investigators also found that the school operated its own email server, and at the beginning of the investigation the emails of the school leader and other staff members were deleted

“I have no words to adequately describe my outrage and disgust about this abject failure of our school system,” City Councilor Michael Flaherty said. “This is the worst of a long list of issues and failures at our Boston Public Schools. Enough is enough! I expect immediate and harsh consequences for all school professionals who knew about this and neglected their responsibility to care for our children.”

The 200 students assigned to Mission Hill will need updated school assignments for school years 2022-2023. BPS has put a transition team in place.

Mission Hill families will receive access to a special enrollment period to find a new school placement.

Cases outlined in the report have been previously reported by multiple media outlets.

Staff directly related to these cases are either no longer employed by the district or are on leave pending further investigation of their individual actions, which may result in disciplinary action.

Other Mission Hill staff, not involved in these incidents, will be supported in finding positions at other schools in the district.

Over the coming days, Mission Hill families are invited to several community meetings, where a transition team will share more about the enrollment process and help families choose a school that best meets their needs, including high-quality schools in Jamaica Plain.

Sean Philip Cotter contributed to this story.

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