Report: Sexual Abuse Went 'Unabated' at Boston K-8 School

Officials recommend 'failed' Mission Hill School be closed
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2022 9:55 AM CDT
Report: Boston K-8 School Ignored Sexual Abuse for Years
Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius has recommended Boston's Mission Hill School be permanently closed.   (Getty Images/GlobalStock)

Boston's Mission Hill School ignored allegations of sexual abuse and bullying for years, according to a scathing new report, which has resulted in the recommendation that the autonomous K-8 school in Jamaica Plain be permanently closed. An investigation by law firm Hinckley Allen was launched after five families claimed their children were repeatedly sexually abused by a fellow student. (Boston Public Schools reached a $650,000 settlement with the families in August). Other parents complained that school officials ignored other troubling behavior, including bullying. Even more allegations surfaced during the investigation, according to the report released Wednesday, per the Boston Globe.

It describes "a culture of pervasive indifference to sexual misconduct, bullying, and bias-based conduct and toward rules, regulations, and policies" at the "failed school," with an intolerance of dissent. This "allowed troubling patterns of unsafe sexual behavior, bullying, and physical violence to continue unabated." There were school records of only a handful of incidents involving the accused student identified as "AJ." However, internal documents and emails named him in more than 30 alleged incidents of sexual misconduct involving at least 11 students. Fewer than half of 102 documented allegations of sexual misconduct by students from September 2013 to February 2021 were recorded in official incident reports.

In one case, former principal Ayla Gavins, who left in 2019, claimed a student "could not have intended to sexually assault" someone because children "cannot have sexual intent," according to the report. It concludes the school has "little culture worth saving." "It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to read," BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, who started in that role in July 2019, said of the report as she proposed that the school be closed when the academic year wraps up in June, per the Globe. That means 200 students will need to be transferred to schools nearby, per WCVB. Mayor Michelle Wu agreed to the closure while promising to bring "accountability to every level of the district." Other implicated staff members are no longer employed or on leave, BPS said. (More Boston stories.)

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