Globe finally has it! Gee, does this say anything? "Taymore did not return a call from the Globe seeking comment. Melrose Mayor Robert Dolan, who is a member of the School Committee, declined to comment." Where is the ever-blogging Brigid now? What a zip code!
Melrose student found to be harassed based on race
By Brenda J. Buote Globe Correspondent September 03, 2015
The US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has determined a Melrose Memorial Middle School student “had been subjected to harassment based on race” during the spring of 2014, according to a statement by the school district’s superintendent.
A complaint was filed with the Office for Civil Rights in the fall of 2014. In a letter sent to Melrose Superintendent Cyndy S. Taymore on Nov. 24, 2014, Allen L. Kropp, an attorney for the Office for Civil Rights, wrote “Specifically, the complaint alleges that in the 2013-14 school year, a middle school teacher made derogatory remarks to one of her assigned students, directed at the student’s race. The complainants also reported that the District has failed to adequately respond to reports and/or complaints about the remarks. They maintain that the lack of response continues to subject students to a racially hostile environment.”
The district — which hosts minority students from outside the city as part of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, or Metco program — recently received verbal notification of the Office for Civil Rights’ finding that the incident had occurred, according to a statement released by Taymore. Federal officials have not provided any written notification or details regarding its determination, according to her statement.
The Title VI law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin by recipients of federal financial assistance, including schools.
Taymore did not return a call from the Globe seeking comment. Melrose Mayor Robert Dolan, who is a member of the School Committee, declined to comment.
Carrie Kourkoumelis, a member of the Melrose School Committee, said the teacher who is the subject of the investigation has retired.
“Many resources have been expended to cloak the Melrose School Committee’s and administration’s actions in secrecy,” said Kourkoumelis.
Kourkoumelis has been pressing Taymore for more information about the investigation and legal fees incurred by the district. In March, the superintendent denied Kourkoumelis’s public records request, citing attorney-client privilege and the state’s deliberative process exemption. Kourkoumelis appealed to Secretary of State William F. Galvin.
“I should not be denied access to those records,” Kourkoumelis said. “As a member of the School Committee, I am the client. The School Committee signs the warrants to pay the legal bills.”
On July 8, the state’s supervisor of public records ordered the district to produce the requested records within 10 days or provide a detailed explanation of the legal reasons for withholding the information. In a written response dated July 29, Taymore estimated that the labor costs for the search would total $7,638.75. That estimate did not include the cost of reproducing any records.
Kourkoumelis filed a second appeal. According to Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Galvin’s office, that appeal was opened Aug. 12. State officials are looking into the matter, he said.
Brenda J. Buote may be reached at email@example.com.
"The terrible thing about the Quest for Truth is that you find it".
Remy de Gourmont
I hope that the 2015 LWV Candidate Forum will have a 3rd party neutral moderator (from outside Melrose) who will ask truth seeking questions.....
I've been closely following this development since 2014. I am impressed with the diligence, focus and yes, bravery, of CK as a school committee member, and other involved families who have been working to resolve this issue in the best interest of students and parents. My sincere personal gratitude goes out to you. I wish I had the courage to fight this so publicly.
To whoever is knowledgeable, please clarify my understanding of the results. My understanding is that the OCR and MPS will work together to formulate corrective actions. Once the plan is completed, OCR will monitor to ensure it is implemented and implemented thoroughly.
I personally believe the primary roles of the school committee are threefold: 1) to hire and evaluate the superintendent, 2) to oversee finance, and 3)to formulate district-wide policies, including bullying and conduct. The issue of racial harassment falls squarely into all three roles and the entire school committee should have been involved in this situation all along.
Thank you Ms. Kourkoumelis for your courage and valor! On to exposure on television and on the radio!
I agree. This community owes CKK, in this matter, and generally, a debt that in all probability can never be repaid. If ever there was a "profiles in courage" candidate, it would be her.
Sincere thanks to Carrie Kourkoumelis for your efforts in bringing this issue to the forefront and your bravery for confronting this lawless school administration!
ejallan09/03/15 09:08 AM
"[Superintendent] Taymore estimated that the labor costs for the search would total $7,638.75"
All the more reason for making open records laws and regulations more bona fide open. One would think that the search for something like this should represent little more than pulling a couple of folders from a file cabinet.
Potlemac09/03/15 10:00 AM
Labor costs!!! Outrageous! Who is the teacher and which KKK outfit did she belong to?
Since it was Taymore's admin that created the mess - let her pay for the cost of those documents - that should encourage her to maintain control over her staff - to prevent these lawsuits!
Can our schools still be a level 3 if PARC results are not good or was that just MCAS?
This question about Parcc and level 3 makes no sense in this string. The district cannot shed its wretched Level 3 status just by going to PARCC, FYI. Nor can it pretend that the bully administrators at the helm in all these disasters can wave them away in silly blog posts or pretty pictures on the school website. Things are at rock bottom and they will stay that way until people get serious about accountability and demanding corrective action.
Maybe I should change my profession to professional public records hunter. Sounds like a lucrative job. WHAT THE HECK???!!!
Free Press article
By Aaron Leibowitz
Posted Sep. 3, 2015 at 10:05 AM
According to a statement issued by the Melrose Public Schools, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has found the district to be in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The determination stems from an OCR investigation that began in November, regarding an incident of alleged racial harassment at Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School in the spring of 2014.
OCR recently gave the district verbal notification of its determination. When asked to confirm, a Department of Education spokesperson said OCR could not yet disclose any case-specific details because the investigation is ongoing.
If OCR has indeed informed the district of its conclusion, the two sides will now work to agree upon steps the district can take to remedy its non-compliance with Title VI.
“OCR informed the Melrose Public Schools of its intent to enter into a dialogue with the school district to resolve this matter,” the district’s statement reads.
Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin by recipients of federal financial assistance.
“The Melrose Public Schools takes very seriously its legal and ethical obligation to address and redress any instances of discrimination that may have occurred within its schools,” the statement reads, “and looks forward to this opportunity to work with OCR to continue to improve its practices and to address the moral imperative of providing a safe atmosphere in which all students may achieve their academic potential.”
The statement continues: “It is the explicit goal of the Melrose Public Schools to provide an environment for students in which they may feel safe, flourish and succeed regardless of their race or other protected status. We intend to work collaboratively with OCR to continue our ongoing efforts to achieve this goal and to comprehensively address any concerns that OCR identifies.”
On Nov. 24, 2014, OCR sent a letter to Superintendent of Schools Cyndy Taymore notifying her that OCR would be opening an investigation into a complaint “that the District is discriminating on the basis of race.”
The letter, signed by Civil Rights Attorney Allen L. Kropp, says that “the complaint alleges that in the 2013-2014 school year, a middle school teacher made derogatory remarks to one of her assigned students, directed at the student’s race.”
The complainants also alleged that the district failed to adequately respond to reports and complaints about the remarks, Kropp wrote, and argued that “the lack of response continues to subject students to a racially hostile environment.”
OCR announced its intention to investigate “whether the District subjected a student or students to a racially hostile environment and, if so, whether the District failed to appropriately respond.”
Kropp told Taymore that OCR was planning to visit the district during the first week of December 2014, and OCR requested a copy of the district’s policies around race discrimination and copies of any complaints of racial harassment the district received during the 2013-14 school year.
In addition, OCR requested to speak during its visit with several staff and administrators: Taymore, Assistant Superintendent Patricia Wright-Lambright, Assistant Principal Jaime Parson, Library Media Specialist Wendy Arnold, Social Studies Director Bryan Corrigan, Social Studies Teacher Naomi Baline, and METCO Director Doreen Ward.
Exactly what OCR found is not yet known, aside from its apparent conclusion that the district is in violation of Title VI. Once the district and OCR reach a resolution, the agreement will be made public on the Dept. of Education website.
Representatives from the district did not wish to comment any further.
“Due to the pending discussions with OCR, the Melrose Public Schools will not have any further comment on this matter until after successfully reaching a resolution with OCR,” the district’s statement reads.
Mayor Rob Dolan also declined to comment, citing a desire to protect the integrity of the investigation process.
"Mayor Rob Dolan also declined to comment, citing a desire to protect the integrity of the investigation process."
I laughed so hard when I read this it made my sides hurt.
Too little too late Melrose Free Press. Historically in the pocket of the Mayor you’ve played safe one to many times. If anyone had any doubts before as to your journalistic integrity there can be no doubt now. No one with an ounce of intelligence will ever read the Free Press for anything more than mild entertainment. You’ve lost all credibility.
Thank you Brenda Bote and Marcia Dick from the Boston Globe for exposing this ugly tragedy in our “One community open to all”. I am disgusted, embarrassed and distraught that in 2015, in our community, a story like this didn't have to happen yet needed to be told. The people of Melrose are forever in your debt. Please don’t abandon us and please continue to ferret out the details in the coming weeks and months reporting on those that are responsible for the shame that they have heaped on this community.
The people of Melrose will not tolerate bigotry. We are a kind and caring community. We love all our children. How and why it ever had to come to this is unfathomable. Please help us.
I'm sorry to disagree, Patricia, but the Melrose community HAS tolerated open bigotry and other maladies for many years.
We all want to believe we are compassionate people but the 'community' of Melrose is anything but. Look at how the 'community' responds to the few people who try to change it up.
Help only comes to those who want to help themselves. For a community, that's about leadership. With bad leadership, harm spreads through the streets and schools like the worst virus.
Improvement won't come for at least another four years. It won't even matter what little things the feds do, as long as the Master of Mirage stays in power.
Not arguing the point about the Free Press historically, but to be fair, they have been reporting on the OCR investigation, including records disputes involving CK. Their story ran the same day as the Globe's and actually has more detail if you look closely, such as the names of staff/admins who were interviewed by OCR.
Could a civil suit be on the horizon on behalf of the parents ? The cost of defending that would be way beyond the
legal fees to date ?
Any civil suit will be settled quickly, not litigated. The schools and the mayor will dig deep into the taxpayers' pockets to ensure that unflattering information isn't ever exposed to the daylight of any court proceeding. You can be sure they will be willing to pay triple the normal amount to ensure the complete facts don't come out. They will demand an illegal confidentiality clause, too.
It would be very hard for the student(s)/parents not to accept a generous settlement. The only hope for full disclosure and for the whole truth to be revealed is if the student(s)/parents realize they have an enormous opportunity to effect a significant and positive change by refusing to accept a settlement that includes a non-disclosure clause.
If, however, the student(s) victimized are METCO kids, and I don't know whether he/she/they are or not, they would have no allegiance to Melrose and will put their own interests first. That's understandable, given what they had to endure both from the offending teacher and from the administration subsequent to the violation(s).
One way or the other, though, the taxpayers will foot the bill. Thanks, Rob. By the way, if you hadn't weaseled your way onto the SC, you could sic your hatchet man onto all of them, and actually look like you were doing the right thing. Now you own it - all of it. Looks like you're not as smart as you think you are. [Flamed]
Of course there will be civil lawsuits, as well there should be.
There should also be a strong community response that includes the call for some immediate resignations. This has been seriously mismanaged, as should be obvious to all. And whomever has provided the legal counsel should be held to account, also!
Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes with that man know full well that he makes overtly inappropriate remarks as part of his basic lingo (the good ol' boys down yonder might let him in their club). He thinks he has a right to say or feel any way he wants. His dad used to make him watch his mouth, but those days are long gone. Now the vile stuff flows freely without any filters. It's a sad reflection on our community that this man is at the helm. It's no wonder that these terrible things are coming to light. However he may try to distance himself, he has a direct link to all that has happened. It's that trickle down thing, too, because some of his more gross underlings and followers have gotten puffed up with a similar variety of arrogance and they also indulge in highly indecorous conduct (or worse). Well, if they can see beyond their arrogance right about now, they should be very very uncomfortable. Then again they might just be too dumb to be appropriately worried. The best case would be if any actually have some come-to-jeezus moments and demonstrate some humility for once. At that point there might be some face-saving for some that could occur. But we're all going to be paying for this any way it cooks.
Victim, I am so sorry this has happened to you and your family. We are not all like the horrible people you have had to deal with at MPS and the School Committee.
I would like to help, but I don't know how. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.
Thank you to the last poster. There are many of us who are genuinely and deeply dismayed by the abuses occurring in our city and want to extend our help and compassion to any who have been victimized by this administration. There are many good and caring people here. There are many who are simply unaware of what is actually happening, for whatever reason, like having no children in the schools or the bigger problem of the administration actively suppressing anything except what is pleasant from the news, along with a tendency of the more gullible parents to want to believe that the system has the best interests of the students at heart (which the facts prove to be untrue, sadly).
Fixing this requires a leap of faith to come forward and join together with those who feel similarly. Instead of hanging back out of fear or apathy, everyone needs to come forward, including those who like the way things are, so that a real community dialogue can begin. There are some brave natural leaders in our community and perhaps they can be called upon to help bring us together to speak with a common and powerful voice. It's no mystery who these natural leaders are, and it's high time we support them and by so doing help ourselves.
Kudos to Lisa Halloran of Whittier Street who wrote a brilliant, detailed and scathing letter to the editor in this week's Free Press supporting Mrs. Kourkoumelis and expressing due outrage over the conduct of the mayor, superintendent, and school committee. It's way past time that these letters surface. Time for community organizing!
This whole thing has been so grossly mismanaged from the outset. It's not so simple as just the one teacher and one student, though, because this is an entire culture that has to be tackled, the culture that has parents defending an administration who has so heinously violated even the most basic tenets of American law. These parents supporting the administration seem to be quite aggressive and confident in their assertions, which simply don't hold to the facts. The culture which allows these parents and this administration to have so much unchecked power has to change before the deeper problems of bigotry can even begin to be addressed.
If any of these MEF mothers were the target of the administration's institutionalized policy of illegally retaliating against and intimidating parents who file civil rights complaints or teacher/administrator misconduct complaints with the superintendent's office, I'm sure they would change their tune. Would they be brave enough to stand up to the administration on behalf of the students and parents to fight for civil rights and justice for Melrose children and parents? Unlikely.