Amid investigation, Mission Hill School in Jamaica Plain to close after near unanimous vote

BOSTON — With five yes votes and one abstention Thursday, the Boston School Committee decided the Mission Hill K-8 School in Jamaica Plain will close at the end of this school year agreeing with both the Mayor and superintendent’s recommendations.

“We will make additional seats available for mission hill students at high-quality schools,” said superintendent Brenda Cassellius.

The vote comes after numerous complaints, a $650,000 settlement to five families, and an almost 200-page law firm investigation. That report found the school “cultivated and tolerated a culture of pervasive indifference to sexual misconduct, bullying and bias-based conduct and toward rules.” That investigation stemmed from complaints about sexual assault and bullying of very young children between 2014 and 2016.

“Our children, the parents, caregivers, and our educators at other school staff will pay for the crimes committed,” said former parent Mike Heichman.

The decision wasn’t easy. There were concerns the vote was too abrupt. that this would harm learning for the 200 students, and disproportionately displace families of color.

“When I told my son about the potential closing he immediately collapsed crying,” said parent Toyoko Orimoto.

Parents were also in tears at the thought of closing.

“It is extremely important that the Council that B.P.S. and the media understand that that portrait is not even close to a full and complete picture of Mission Hill,” said parent Maura Smyth.

But others were incensed at the thought of keeping it open.

“It has taken many years in therapy to work through trauma inflicted during my daughter’s time at Mission Hill, and to this day we cannot drive near the street of the school or she will panic and dry heave,’ said B.P.S. teacher and parent Asha Leray.

The committee said the vote considered the many positive attributes that were not reported in the investigation, but realized there would be many negative attributes not reported as well.

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