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Racial Justice Issue – Milton Public Schools


Dear FSU Members,

Below is a letter from UMB Professor Reyes Coll-Tellechea regarding an important issue that many of you may have seen in the Boston Globe.  She is looking for signatures/support and we thought this might interest many of you.


Colleague, below is a letter addressed to Milton Public Schools Board for your review and consideration

I ask that you sign it, if you agree, by sending me your name and department (no rank, please) ASAP and that you pass it to other colleagues that might also be interested.

3 things to consider:

  • Below is the Globe article on the issue
  • What happened to Zakia  Jarrett will happen at UMB as well, for this is not an isolated “incident”. We need to be prepared
  • Milton Public Shools are trying to establish a  formal collaboration with UMB

Many thanks


To the Members of the School Committee, Milton, Massachusetts

We, the undersigned, faculty members at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, committed to fostering racial justice in public education, write to express our indignation and concern at the official treatment received by Ms. Zakia Jarrett, an English teacher at Milton Public Schools Pierce Middle School.

As it is well known, Superintendent Mary Gormley, swiftly suspended Ms. Jarrett after what can only be termed as an incomplete and biased review based on a partial video recording of one of Ms. Jarrett’s classes that was obtained in flagrant violation of Milton Public Schools’ policy on class recording. Ms. Jarrett was suspended due to a class discussion on Langston Hughes’ work where she alluded to racism in the U.S. and more precisely among police forces.

Although the suspension has since been overturned, in great part due to the intervention of the Milton teachers’ union and more than 400 indignant parents, who joined together to protect Ms. Jarrett and demand an apology, we believe that the time for simple apologies has passed. We demand actions. Specifically, we demand Superintendent Gormley’s resignation, or that she be removed from her post, for among other reasons, failing to recognize and protect the most basic and important function of education: the advancement of society in good and in bad times. In our times, the advancement of American society cannot be achieved without direct and honest attention to racial justice; which was precisely what Ms. Jarrett was doing in her class. Furthermore, Ms. Gormley’s actions will surely have an impact on other MPS educators who will no longer feel safe addressing racism in their remote-learning classrooms; in turn MPS students will be deprived of racial justice education at precisely the time when our society most needs it. Educators cannot afford to be silent on this matter. Milton Public Schools cannot afford to be silent on this matter. Milton cannot afford to be silent on this matter. You, members of the School Committee, hold the power to enact change on this problem, at this time. We demand that you act and that you use your power to advance society and to start building a strong collaboration with your colleagues at UMass Boston.



Reyes Coll-Tellechea

Professor, Latin American and Iberian Studies

Pronouns: She/her/hers

University of Massachusetts Boston

Boston, MA 02125

Milton parents upset over teacher’s suspension

By Emily Sweeney, Globe Staff

A group of Milton parents recently wrote a letter to a middle school principal and superintendent expressing their “outrage’’ over the suspension of a teacher who allegedly said “many cops are racist’’ during a class discussion.

The June 6 letter states that the teacher, Zakia Jarrett, was placed on administrative leave for the comment she allegedly made to her students, and she has since been reinstated. 

“While we understand that Ms. Jarrett shared her opinion that ‘many cops are racist’ is a problem in the eyes of the administration, we are of the mind that because we live in a society plagued by systemic and institutionalized racism, her comments do not represent anything false,’’ the letter states. “We feel strongly that educators in our town must be able to address racism with clarity and transparency. We are also deeply troubled that after what was such a difficult week of race relations in this country, the leadership of Pierce (Middle School) and (Milton Public Schools) would consider something as egregious as Zakia’s suspension. It is salt in a very old wound and indicates institutional racism is playing itself out in our classrooms.’’

“Although the suspension has since been overturned, we feel it necessary to register our profound concern about not only the incident itself, but also about the broader issues in the district that this incident brings to light.’’

Jarrett, who teaches sixth-grade English at the Pierce Middle School, declined to comment. Asked if the information in the letter from parents was accurate, she replied via e-mail, “I am not at liberty to confirm or deny at this time.’’

The parents’ letter in support of Jarrett, which was signed by about 400 people, also accused the Milton school district of not prioritizing teaching students about race and racism in school. (School officials did announce plans to hold a “Day of Reflection’’ on June 11 to discuss any questions or concerns that students may have about racial justice.)

The parents’ letter states, “In a racially literate school district, teachers would be equipped and ready with the training and resources they need to help students process, analyze, and explain the events of the past few weeks. In a racially literate school district, educating children and facilitating discussions around the events of the past few weeks would be the top priority for the district. Instead, the recent incident with Ms. Jarrett and the district’s lack of systematic, all-hands-on-deck approach to educating children in this critical moment reflect the substantial work that remains to be done for MPS to make progress on this front.’’

Pat Latimore, one of the cofounders of a grassroots group called Citizens for a Diverse Milton, said there was an “uproar’’ from parents when they learned that Jarrett had been put on leave. Several members of her group signed the letter.

“I was disappointed by the initial response from the school,’’ she said. “It sends a chilling message to teachers of color, and all teachers, about what they can and cannot say in the classroom.’’

E-mails to William Fish, the principal at Pierce Middle School, and Milton Schools Superintendent Mary Gormley were not immediately returned.

Fish and the two assistant principals at Pierce sent a letter to students stating that June 11 will be a “Day of Reflection’’ to discuss any issues and questions they may have in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, the Black man who died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for more than eight minutes while Floyd was on the ground handcuffed.

The letter states, “In the 11 days that have passed since George Floyd’s death, we have watched, read about, and even participated in gatherings, peaceful protests, and vigils that guide progress and help healing. We have also witnessed riots, and in some areas, a disproportionately aggressive response from the government to quell those riots. . . . We are setting aside June 11th as a Day of Reflection and inviting you to participate in a discussion forum, led by a Pierce faculty member, in lieu of that day’s remote learning classes and assignments.’’ The letter also stressed that, “Our social distance makes it difficult to come together. We hope this discussion forum will provide the time, social connection, and adult guidance necessary to allow you to share the personal optimism or sadness, understanding or confusion, hope or anger you feel in response to the national discussion about racial justice, violence, and government. At a minimum it will be an opportunity for our diverse learning community to reflect together and support each other.’’

Emily Sweeney can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.