Boston/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on February 21, 2024
Gardner Pilot Academy Administrators Removed Amid Misconduct AllegationsSource: Google Street View

In a shake-up at Boston's Gardner Pilot Academy, the principal and an assistant principal were ousted following allegations of failed response to student sexual misconduct and bullying. Detailed in a letter from Superintendent Mary Skipper obtained by Boston 25 News, the investigation uncovered serious-code of conduct violations including persistent bullying based on race and gender, racial or homophobic slurs, and sexual misconduct such as groping and choking among students.

The ousted administrators are accused to have known about these violations but largely failed to respond adequately, going against both district policy and state law. According to the same letter, a former male employee at GPA also sent inappropriate messages to middle school girls, which were not promptly addressed by the assistant principal in charge. Skipper said the male staffer's conduct is now under an active criminal investigation.

The Boston Globe, in an interview with ex-principal Erica Herman who contested the allegations, reported that Herman felt the actions against her were overblown in response to concerns from teachers and parents unhappy with other unrelated school decisions. "We reported everything that was a violation of the Code of Conduct," Herman told The Boston Globe. Herman pointed out her recent positive job evaluation and asserted that if her school was lax in reporting, others were performing significantly worse.

The school district has now begun to search for a permanent principal with interim leadership to step in as of February 26. Skipper expressed confidence in the Gardner community's resilience and its ability to move forward. "The school has brilliant students, dedicated families, committed and talented educators, and giving partners," Skipper said in her letter. Moreover, a Zoom community meeting is scheduled for March 1 to discuss the ongoing situation, Skipper has confirmed.

Despite the recent turmoil, Gardner Pilot Academy has been lauded for its achievements; just last year, it was awarded a significant prize for high attendance rates and its successful partnering with community organizations. Jake Dempsey, a parent and member of the school governing board, praised the nurturing environment the school provided, stating to The Boston Globe, "I always felt our children had a great educational experience and the school was a safe place."