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Mission Hill School In Jamaica Plain Could Be Shut Down After Investigation Finds Years Of Sexual Misconduct Among Students

BOSTON (CBS) – Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius is recommending the Mission Hill K-8 School permanently close at the end of this academic year following an investigation into sexual misconduct. The investigation also found pervasive physical and verbal bullying at the school.

On Wednesday night, the Jamaica Plain school revealed the results of a six-month investigation into allegations by numerous students. Attorneys spoke to more than 60 witnesses and found multiple incidents of student-on-student sexual misconduct between 2014 and 2019.

School officials say the reports span from kindergarten to sixth grade. Despite intervention from the district and more training, nothing changed.

"Through inaction allowed patterns of bullying and sexualized behavior to continue largely uninterrupted which led to a normalizing of these behaviors," Cassellius said at a School Committee meeting Wednesday night.

In a statement, Boston Public Schools said, "Based on the persistent pattern of abuse confirmed in this independent report, the only viable option is to close the school and support students in their transition to other schools in the district."

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said she agrees with the recommendation to close the school.

"I'm devastated to learn about the persistent abuse at the Mission Hill School," Wu said. "While closure is never an easy decision, in this case, it is the right one. During this period of transition for BPS, I am committed to building a leadership team and a culture that brings accountability to every level of the district and ensures no child ever experiences violence in our schools."

The investigation was done by the Boston law firm Hinckley Allen and led by former Assistant U.S. Attorney William Sinnott.

Attorney Dan Heffernan represented five of the families who settled a lawsuit over what their students went through and the responses that they received at the time from the school.

"I think it was validating of the concerns that the parents had raised. I mean this is something they pushed a long time ago, starting in 2014, about issues about their safety," Heffernan told WBZ-TV. "They raised the issue with teachers, with the principal, with different administrators at the school about what was going on as far as the assault and the victimization of their children, about [what was] happening to other children, that there were steps not being taken to keep those kids safe."

"There was a continued inappropriate lack of reporting, that most of all is what makes me angry," Wu said. "We have not only seen a failure of adults to respond to needs here but also a delay in when accountability should have been seen."

Glory Acevedo, who dropped off her son on Thursday, said she didn't know if closing the school was the solution. But she felt certain issues needed to be addressed.

"A lot of bullying. And I brought it up to teachers, and nothing has been done," Acevedo said. "I feel like they don't really care about the students."

There are currently 200 students assigned to the school. BPS has put a team in place who will work with each family to ensure a smooth transition to a new school.

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