The Dig takes a look at the treatment of special-ed kids at Boston Latin School, through the lens of one student whose disciplinary record school officials said they would scrub if she transferred immediately to another school.
This is tough. While on the one hand, it's not fair to special needs students to be left behind, on the other... you test into BLS because you want the BLS experience. Which is sold as rigorous, high standards, and high stakes. The reason they send double digit enrollment to Harvard, a university with something like a 1% acceptance rate, is because their students are prepared for that level of work AND for that environment. BLS students are future finance and biotech and startup and innovation and academics; high stress, high rigor, high reward fields.
The accommodations this girl wanted, including a safe space complete with counseling to retreat to in any moment of anxiety and "timely praise" of every little positive outcome, are incongruent with the segment of the real world that BLS is aiming to prepare kids for.
I don't know. To me it's like applying for a job at a startup and then not being able to cope with long hours and high stress and spending your whole life obsessed about the project -- there's nothing wrong with that, I can't cope with those things either, but that's why I work a 9-5. And why I wouldn't have been a good fit for BLS.
Not knocking anyone here - but one of the appeals of BLS is that due to centuries of history, Harvard accepts a number of students that wouldn't get in with an identical record at pretty much any other school in the country. The most exclusive schools in the country (and the world), probably get fewer than 5 kids in on a good year. I think BLS gets 1-2 dozen in every year
As for this issue, my guess is that there is more to this story than they reporter had access to - which was pretty one-sided. The conclusion was interesting in noting:
Because districts are allowed to move special ed students if a current placement isn’t providing the necessary support, however, BLS—despite its unrivaled resources among Boston public schools—was not mandated to accommodate Christina.
Resources? Adam is probably best versed on this out here - but it's my understanding that BLS has the lowest individual public budget of any school in the system by far - it's only the endowment that allows them to afford other extras. Maybe that was the problem - BLS truly doesn't have the resources to deal with these issues?
has the money. My guess is that special ed funds come out of a central BPS budget and not the alumni association funds that go for extras. Special ed is not an extra. Competitive high quality schools have students with disabilities. I work with such students at one.
By law, special needs cannot be used to exclude kids from getting their academic/intellectual needs met. Many 2E (twice-exceptional) students can thrive at a place like BLS or in AP/IB classes if they are given the accommodations and support they are legally entitled to.
The U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights has issued policy memos to that effect. You can read more about this at
A response that gives no answers. You just listed the law, but address nothing about the anon's point raised.
When part of rigor is always being able to do presentations in front of people, near perfect attendance, being able to independent self-study, and etc then accommodations of not being deducted when not presenting, able to miss classes, given personal guidance to lesson planning undermines the school's own rigorous tenets.
The article and I guess want to try to appeal that a person should not be deducted outside of one own's volition. That an absence caused by a panic attack and an absence cause by disinterested laziness should be differentiated. But that does not change the fact you can't both have rigor in attendance while also being permissive in attendance at the same time.
A school that is competitive or gives grades must discriminate between those students who do the work and deserve good grades, and those students who don't do the work and don't deserve good grades.
In the case of "Christina," you have a kid who
a) had some disabilities,
b) was screwing up in school
The two matters are not necessarily causally related.
That is to say, she wasn't necessarily screwing up in school only because she had some disabilities.
As the story shows at the end, the girl dropped out of the O'Bryant three months later because she "didn't want to be in high school."
This should make us doubt the recommendations of the mental health professional: 'that any of Christina’s anxiety-related absences should be “distinguished from a lack of desire to attend class,"'
Did you really think that those administrators came to BLS to work with ... special students?
In practice, school districts, not individual schools, are responsible for meeting a student’s special education needs and providing a free and appropriate public education. BPS is therefore tasked with allocating the funds for special education programs. Due to Boston’s weighted budget policy (and because of state and federal guidelines), special needs students require extraordinary individualized funding. BLS has very few such pupils (fewer than 2 percent of the 2014 student body received special services); so when BPS found itself facing a $100 million budget gap in 2010, Latin School was hit especially hard, receiving a 5.1 percent cut in funding—more than double the 2.5 percent cut proposed across the entire district.”
So the BPS hacked funding for special needs support at BLS in half and now since everybody wants to pigpile on Latin, let's whack it for that too. Elitists! How dare they have their funding cut!
I hope the kid who wrote this ill-substantiated smear piece doesn't still owe money for journalism school.
And is there going to be a part two?
Christina dropped out of the O’Bryant after three months. “That school was great,” she says. “I liked that school a lot. I left because I didn’t want to be in high school.”
I'm sure ample factoids could be unearthed or invented to make that seem twice as scandalous. But who would bother reading about another kid who simply didn't want to be in school, without the allure of elitism?
“I know so many people who go to BLS who are mentally ill,” says one recent graduate.
I have a sister that age and maybe it's just the crowd she runs with, but the normal high drama and emotional stress of teenagerdom and figuring yourself and your future out (which, at the time, is very real, not to discount them) is widely considered among their peer group to be "mental illness". Plenty of her friends will introduce their pronouns and their mental illnesses before I can get a name out of them. Lots of inability to handle things like the real world, which is par for the course, but not exactly the devastation actual mental illness causes.
WATB belongs in the DSM-VI
BPS has a lot of explaining to do. Just how bad is violence in the Boston schools? How safe is it for kids to travel to and fro on the MBTA.
Which I say as the father of a BLS student who went to her last day of school today - on an MBTA bus, as she did almost every day for six years. I don't know if she took the Orange Line home from Ruggles, as she often did, however.
Your kidlet lucked on the school lottery. Other kidlets not so much.
We were lucky: We did "win" the lottery and got the school we wanted for elementary school. And, yes, it sucks that not all BPS schools are equal.
Not sure what that has to do with the safety of Boston Latin School or the T, though, which is the issue I was addressing.
Congratulations, Adam! And especially to kidlet.
It's been a long journey. And in two or three months, she starts another one.
Because that is what this has come to, people coming out of the woodwork with completely unverified tales including this family. Interesting that the dad in this story didn't disclose how he disrobed at a parent meeting one night, which was truly memorable for all present. And the police investigated the multitude of claims regarding rape, assault, you name it and yet nothing found. Yet the parents still tell their tale, and they finally found two forums, the Dig and UHub, willing to publish completely unsubstantiated hearsay. What a proud day for the fourth estate.
The article ran up a bunch of red flags - the supposed cause of the bullying, the father's apparent obsession with a listserv, the girl walking out of school, the fact the IEP committee would allow a high schooler to have "dismiss herself from school" as a reasonable accommodation --
More details would be appreciated.
Fortunately, I was not on it, but my wife was, which is probably a good thing because, yes, it was definitely something one could easily obsess over. Let's just say BLS parents are opinionated.
The father arrived at the meeting wearing shorts and a cut off T-shirt after having run the 3.5 miles to Boston Latin School. And it was the last parent meeting of the year which is actually a party where no business and there is lots of food and cake and such things. After the father cooled off a bit from the run, he went around a bookcase to the main library where he put some regular cloths on over the running clothes. And you got the idea I was stripping down? I thought you were just hating me for being a Jew.
They don't deal with problems well.
The criteria to enter the school is testing. Surviving freshman year isn't criteria, it's Lord of the Flies.
My experience is that they never ask for help until the problem is pretty well established.
Go to a different school! BLS did not get to where it is today by lowering standards for every stressed out teenager.
Every Bostonian should be proud that BLS is one of the best public schools in the country, whether you went there or not. If you or your kid can't handle it, tough luck. Not everyone can be a winner, and the real world doesn't have safe spaces.
As the proud parent of an impending BLS graduate, I am very grateful the school is no longer run like some sink-or-swim boot-camp version of "The Paper Chase."
BLS remains a tough school to get through, but kids are no longer supposed to just be dumped out on Ave. Louis Pasteur at the first sign of trouble. There are plenty of caring teachers, counselors and even fellow students (even if they still do start sixie year with that same old "look to your left, look to your right, one of you won't be graduating" spiel) who help kids with problems and get them through rough patches.
Not every kid learns the same exact way and not every kid is born perfect and tough and fully self sufficient. There is nothing wrong with a helping hand occasionally - in both school and real life - and I'm glad to see kids graduate with a better sense of humanity.
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