When class let out on Jan. 13 at 3:08 p.m., Andira Ture was ready. As students spilled out of the James P. Timilty Middle School in Roxbury, Massachusetts, about two dozen community members stood in the park across the street with banners and placards for a press conference organized by Ture and the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
Ture’s son attends the Timilty School, where other students sexually harassed and assaulted him in two separate incidents on school grounds. Ture asked for sex education at the school, and her son faced retaliation. After her concerns were dismissed by administrators, Ture began this campaign to demand better from Boston Public Schools, and she wants parents and teachers to join her. Some already have.
The campaign is demanding mandatory sex and consent education for students and training for staff and administrators on sexual assault at the Timilty Middle School and all Boston Public Schools. They also demand that all schools in the BPS system hire licensed counselors to meet the America School Counselor Association’s guidelines of at least one counselor for every 250 students. This would mean at least two counselors at the Timilty School, which currently has none.
Ture spoke at the press conference:
“Two students pulled down my son’s pants in front of all his classmates three times in one class. It was not a game nor has he ever pulled down either of the other boys pants or any of his classmates pants. He did not want that to happen and clearly stated for them to stop.
“Imagine if that was to happen in the workplace. A co-worker just pulls down your pants in front of your co-workers. Or if the Timilty administration did that among themselves. Would we ignore it?
“Despite all the facts and witnesses the administration called it horseplay….The dean of students, Hector Perez, even went as far as to describe the assault and harassment of my son as an issue of ‘boys being boys.’ Well, not my son.”
Perez stood across the street with a group of students and other administrators. He tried to intimidate the protesters by yelling about defamation and calling his lawyer, and a small group of students began jeering along with him. Ture fought through tears to finish her speech.
“And all the while I advocated for educating the students involved — and the staff, because clearly they need it — to get some education about consent, boundaries, and why what they did was wrong and harmful. Instead of taking my advice, they stonewalled me. I called multiple times making these simple requests. It is a shame the school chose to ignore me and not act to ensure that students get the education they need and deserve.”
Cecil Carey, a teacher and member of the Boston Teachers Union, said,
“I want to be clear about one thing: we’ve got staff here, we’ve got students, we’ve got family. This does not need to be the community against the school. We need to work together because I know firsthand that the Timilty School is one of the most neglected and forgotten schools in BPS. It is not the fault of the Timilty staff that BPS has not provided you with a single counselor. That is not your fault. We are here today to speak out about this systematic neglect of our schools. That is what allowed this to happen.”
JD, another BTU member who asked to be identified by first name only, spoke next.
“The administration was clearly being sexist to Andira by not taking her valid concerns seriously because she is a working class Black woman and mother. And I’m confident they were banking on this working mother not to follow through on holding them accountable. But not only is she holding them accountable, she is bringing her community to do it with her!
“The idea that ‘boys will be boys’ is absolutely ridiculous. Andira’s son is a boy, and he didn’t sexually harass or assault anyone. So what this issue — and the administration’s unacceptable response to it — really speaks to is the larger issue of patriarchy, which is a system that impacts all aspects of our lives.
Another parent, Mrs. Thomas, heard the press conference from across the street and asked to speak on the mic. She addressed Perez and Ture directly.
“Hello, Mr. Perez. I want to apologize to you, ma’am, for everything that you went through. For everything that your son went through. My child experienced the same thing, right Mr. Perez? Don’t walk away now.
“You wanted to suspend her. I fought for her, I advocated for my child. That’s what I did. I appealed it, and I won. Look at you. Somebody else is going through that. How many parents is going to have to go through this?
“And you know what? I agree with everything that everybody is saying because the Boston Public Schools needs to be accountable. Because Timilty is closing down, they feel like they need to neglect them. We’re not getting the services that we need.”
Mrs. Thomas ended her speech saying that she will be out to support the campaign’s next event this Monday: