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Report says Mission Hill School leaders ignored bullying of one student for years

CommonWealth Magazine reports what led to BPS putting the co-leaders of the Mission Hill K-8 School on leave recently: An outside lawyer's report that the school deliberately ignored multiple complaints, over several years, from the parents of a gender non-conforming child, about repeated bullying.

The alleged bullying happened while Ayla Gavins was principal, and at the same time as one young student was repeatedly sexually attacking and bullying other students. That case led to a lawsuit and a settlement last month in which the city will pay the families of five students $650,000.

Gavins resigned as principal in 2019.


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The alleged violent acts included the student being pinned up against a bathroom wall and choked by a fellow student, stabbed in the face with a pencil, struck on the head, punched in the nose, body checked, kicked, taunted, hair pulled, and verbally abused.

Most of that is outright assault. As much as I hate the criminal justice system in this country and how it works, I'd be very, very tempted to involve it.

Voting closed 51

Of the kind of behavior ignored in Boston Public Schools. But 52 incidents over five years has to be some kind of record.

This is a pretty special part:

“Ms. Gavins... contended that the behavior of the students toward [the gender-nonconforming student] was not ‘bullying’ but “retaliation’ by the other students in response to [the gender-nonconforming student’s] actions. She contended that the ‘other kids were fed up.’” Coffey’s report later suggested other children at the school were fed up because of the gender-nonconforming student’s failure to read social cues.

Ms. Gavins seems to believe in rough justice. I am trying not to hope she gets some of her own.

Voting closed 47

"if they only know their place, they won't be bothered."

Voting closed 32

"beating the normal into" that kid.

Ayla Gavins should be up on child abuse charges.

Voting closed 41

POS had to have been trained in the anti bullying laws - and willingly chose to ignore them to make this kid's life hell.

Voting closed 20

Mean principals have to fill out extra paperwork. No bullying, no paperwork.

Voting closed 17

Sadly, I hear stories like this from people all over the country (and world). Not just for gender-nonconforming kids (who sadly are targets all too often). Failure to read social cues is a disability (particularly frequent in kids on the autism spectrum, also those with ADHD), and calls for help and protection under IDEA (the education version of ADA) - certainly not a reason to sanction assault.

No teacher or administrator should think that abuse is acceptable if it's retaliation rather than bullying. Assault is assault.

Voting closed 31

student’s failure to read social cues

So, if a student does truly have a deficit in a major area of functioning, you teach them. You're a school! There are clear laws about this. And if the needs are beyond what you provide, you take steps to place the student at a Chapter 766 social-emotional school. Seriously, they're digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole by blaming this on an educational issue rather than saying the student was willfully obnoxious or something. (Which, semantics wouldn't change whether it's on the school to address, but still, how dumb do you have to be to say the child's "problem" is something you're specifically legally required to address?)

And if this is a neurodivergent child whose social skills are in fact functional but just aren't neurotypical social skills, then you teach the neurotypical students how there are different ways of being in the world and neurotypical social skills aren't the only "correct" ones and you provide adult neurodivergent role models.

Voting closed 41


Maybe the district should also talk to families with kids who have disabilities ... sounds like this (explitive) administrator's extreme problem with acting like a responsible adult likely violates disability rules, too - and massively violates the state's antibullying laws.

Perhaps someone can beat some empathy into her? Same logic ...

Voting closed 19

In the 70s I was bullied and physically assaulted (sometimes seriously) for being gay for four years straight at Boston Latin and then a private high school. There was nothing that could be done about it in those days. It was institutionalized, it was expected, and even the idiot guidance councilor implied it was my own fault and that I should "see a psychiatrist". I managed to survive by never, ever adopting a victim mentality, and I rose far above it in my mind, which was all I had at the time. Not only did I survive but I prevailed. What's that old saying about "living well is the best revenge"?

My heart goes out to kids going through what I went through. I am glad there is now recourse, and I hope they end up OWNING that school.

Voting closed 47


"What conditions are necessary for students to take risks and stick to their convictions to see something through even when it may be unpopular or difficult for the benefit of a greater good or themselves?"

What a fraud.

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And don't care. AT ALL.

From the slick website to the shiny happy employee pictures, the entire place screams "hooray for everything!" while employing abusive monsters.

It's a small step up from the Sober House racket.

Voting closed 11

I hope Ayla Gavins loses her job and is barred from working with kids ever again.

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The state enacted anti-bullying laws well before any of this happened and those laws and the trainings EXPLICITLY address this sort of behavior - both by the bully and the administrator.

I hope she loses everything she owns in a lawsuit. This is egrigious.

Voting closed 15

Just yesterday Gavins was a guiding light of progressivist education.

Voting closed 10

Of your child hits kicks or slaps my child I will make sure that you are slapped with a 51a. I'll have your license too. I hope these kids parents sue every BPS employee who looked away. This is endemic in human services in Boston, vulnerable fight over scraps while Administrators roll to the bank and collect pension.

Voting closed 12