In a recent article, a federal probe has found that Boston Latin discriminated against historically underserved students. Historically underserved student have been plagued by the atrocities associated with racism since the inception of school segregation in the United States. The characteristics associated with a dysfunction organization make it difficult for school like Boston Latin to eliminate discrimination against historically underserved students.
According to the article, Federal probe find discrimination at Boston Latin, US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz announced that Boston Latin School staff fuels a climate of racial discrimination and harassment which results in staff failing to appropriately respond to student complaints that has lead to at least one violation of the federal Civil Rights Act. The investigation found that discrimination reports by students were valid. In one incident a Black female student was called a racial slur by a male which the school mishandled resulting in the civil rights violation.
The investigation also found that the headmaster of the Boston Latin, Lynne Mooney Teta, failed at her duties as an administrator by not appropriately investigating an incident of racial bullying. In the article it was concluded that the lack of appropriate investigation was a result of a close relationship between Teta and the alleged perpetrator. If we evaluate the headmasters response form the perspective of the characteristics of a dysfunctional organization, it becomes prominent on how to appropriately resolve and solve incidents associated with discrimination in schools.
What are the characteristics of a dysfunctional organization that contributed to Boston Latin discrimination against historically undeserved students?
The dysfunctional organization begins with each person’s use of defense mechanisms for coping. Defense mechanisms are the unwritten rules an individual learns and utilizes to effectively deal with circumstances that are upsetting, embarrassing, or threatening.
The second level is skilled incompetence, which is the outcome of the defense mechanisms we have internalized. When the defensive behaviors we’ve learned are transformed into a learned behavior, that behavior becomes a skill – albeit an incompetent skill – that we consider necessary in order to deal with issues that are embarrassing, threatening, or upsetting. A skill that is learned from the regular application of a defense mechanism has a high degree of incompetence embedded within it, because we are unaware of how this skill will impact our future.
Skilled incompetence transforms into a defensive routine. Defensive routines are the third level. When the skilled incompetence is automatically exhibited at all times, the behavior is now a defensive routine.
Defensive routines lead to fancy footwork. Fancy footwork is the fourth level. Fancy footwork happens when individuals try to deny the behavioral inconsistencies they exhibit, or else they place blame on other people, which results in distancing themselves from taking responsibility for their behavioral inconsistencies.
Fancy footwork leads to organizational malaise. Organizational malaise is the final level. During this phase the individuals in the organization will seek to find fault within the organization rather than accept responsibility for their actions and correct their behavior accordingly. The individual continues the process by accentuating the negative and deemphasizing the positive in an effort to cover up their actions. The organizational malaise is further exacerbated by a refusal of one or all the members to discuss their area of responsibility.
How does a dysfunctional organizational characteristics apply to Boston Latin which lead the challenges with discriminating against historically underserved students?
It was reported in the article that “the parent, whose daughter was bullied for speaking out against the [racial] texts, reported the incident in a voicemail to Teta. But the headmaster, who had a personal connection to one of the bullying students, had another person — who was not an employee but who also had a connection to the bullying student — contact the parent.
The concerned parent ultimately reported cyberbullying to the School Department’s Safe Space and Bullying Prevention Hotline, which then sent the complaint back to Teta. The report found that the incident was not properly investigated after that point.
The dysfunctional characteristics that were exhibited are outlined as follows:
- The Defensive Mechanism is to protect the student who the Boston Latin School administration had a personal connection with
- The Skilled Incompetence was developed as a process for protecting students who the administration had personal connections with for which they were not aware of the outcome. In this instance, the outcome was an allegation of racism at Boston Latin School.
- The Defensive Routine was to protect the student(s) who they have personal connections with by not exposing the student to an internal investigation.
- Fancy Footwork was exhibited when the Boston Latin School administration distanced themselves from taking responsibility for the discrimination incident by having another person who was not an employee to contact the parent.
- Organizational Malaise was exhibited when the Boston Latin School administration did not properly investigate the discrimination incident.
While many people may believe that the primary violation was to protect individual students. This is the primary reason why Boston Latin School would have benefited from a process that promotes positive relationships with all students.
All the best,
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
The Raccelerate Phenomenon
Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
“Dr. Campbell did his part and now all we have to do is run with it.”
~ Tom Coleman ~
Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools
“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.
~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor
“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”
~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President