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Boston Latin Academy, Girls’ Latin alumni clash over membership in group

Tanisha Bhat

Former graduates of Boston Latin Academy and its predecessor, Girls’ Latin School, have filed a legal action with the Supreme Judicial Court, alleging they were “denied, driven away or discouraged” from leadership positions after attempting to make a joint alumni association more inclusive.

The petitioners, who call themselves the Inclusive Alums, allege the association’s president, Karen Curran, has silenced them and “invalidly appointed” officers and directors of the board. They also claim that the association is attempting to dissolve without proper authorization.

They are asking the high court, the sole authority to dissolve charitable associations, to intervene to keep the association intact so it can continue to serve BLA’s students and preserve the organization’s long history. 

“Each of the Petitioners is an alumnus or alumna of BLA or GLS who is passionate about having the opportunity to give back to BLA and its current students and more recent alums through the Association as members, but who have been denied, driven away or discouraged from such opportunity because of their views on making the Association more inclusive,’’ the petitioners wrote in their June 26 complaint to the SJC.

Curran, responding to a Banner inquiry, directed questions to the lawyer representing defendants in the case.

Jim Rudolph, the Boston lawyer representing the defendants, told the Banner his clients believe the petition is “frivolous” and will be filing a motion to dismiss it.

“We think it’s unfortunate that the petitioners have chosen to go public with their issues,’’ he said. “We offered several times to meet privately or even go to mediation to try to resolve any grievances they may have.”

Inclusive Alums members were reluctant to attend such a meeting or go into mediation because they felt it would have been ineffective in addressing their broader issues, Medor said. Instead they decided to seek action from the court.

Girls’ Latin School was founded in 1878 as an all-girls public college-preparatory school in Boston. When it became co-ed in the 1970s, its name was changed to Boston Latin Academy.

Culturally — and over time — the school fundamentally transformed from an all-white institution to one of the more diverse of the city’s three exam schools. GLS was “old Boston” while BLA represents a changing city. The recent SJC petition has unearthed simmering tensions and deep cultural divisions within the alumni group.

The association was intended to raise funds for students and provide alumni of both iterations of the school networking opportunities.

However, the petitioners claim the association is unfairly showing preference for the much smaller number of GLS alumni, all white women, and are preventing BLA alumni, a group that has become more diverse over the decades, from being involved and holding board positions.

“We want transparency, we want some level of accountability, and we want to make sure that the board reflects the diverse alumni that we have,” said Don Medor, who graduated from BLA in 2007 and is an Inclusive Alums member.

The GLS/BLA Association Inc. is a separate entity from the Boston Latin Academy Association, which is made up of parents, faculty, staff and other members of the larger BLA community.

BLA’s 10,000 alumni more than triple GLS’ 2,800-plus former students, the petition said. Yet, the petitioners argue, the number of BLA alumni on the association’s board has slowly decreased over the years.

There was only one male BLA grad on the board alongside eight or nine former GLS students from 2018 to 2020, the petition said. And no BLA alumni served on the board in 2021 and last year.

Additionally, the board hasn’t had a person of color since 2020, despite the school’s diverse student body, the petition said.

“That’s the crux of the issue here,” Medor said. “They are excluding diversity from within the association.”

State data shows that roughly 70% of BLA’s more than 1,700 students are people of color.

Medor and other Inclusive Alums members also allege that Curran has failed to hold any valid meetings since 2018, and that in 2020, the board excluded 13 of the 16 BLA grads who submitted nominations to run for board positions. They then allowed only members of the board to vote, which once again favored GLS women, the petitioners said.

The petition alleges that at one point last year, nearly the entire board resigned and that Curran invalidly appointed other GLS alumnae to board positions without holding a meeting or having the required quorum — a direct violation of the organization’s bylaws.

“The board’s dearth of BLA alums, recent graduates, alums of color and male alums has been due to a concerted effort by the Association and its president, defendant Karen Curran, to exclude BLA alums from leadership roles, and from input and involvement in the Association,’’ the petitioners said in their complaint.

This practice has allowed the association to focus on outreach, communication, networking, fundraising and expenditures “directed to GLS alumnae and the promotion of GLS’s history and its legacy,” the petition says.

Timothy Clark, the attorney representing the Inclusive Alums, said they plan to include Attorney General Andrea Campbell, who has already started reviewing the organization’s finances, as a third party to the petition and expect a hearing in front of the SJC. 

“We hope to stop the planned dissolution and keep the association going as one that allows all alums, both those who graduated when the school was GLS and those who’ve graduated after it became BLA, to lead and feel like they’re part of an inclusive alumni group,” Clark said.