A number of Charlestown parents with children at Boston Latin School (BLS) have raised serious questions about delays and lack of information in the past year that the school – but not the public – has known about a person who was videotaping students in the bathrooms at the Fenway exam school.
In a meeting this month with parents following the March 11 arrest of the man at Boston College, school officials told parents police had alerted them to a federal investigation into such an incident in March 2018. However, the schools and BLS were ordered by police to keep the information secret so they could continue their investigation.
BPS told the paper they were assured by law enforcement at that time last year that there was no longer an ongoing safety threat.
“Headmaster Skerritt and I are horrified by the allegations that were brought to our attention by law enforcement,” said Interim Supt. Laura Perille. “Safety is always our top priority, and we strive every day to make sure our students are learning and thriving in safe, welcoming, and supportive schools. These alleged acts represent a major violation to the student victims, along with the entire Boston Latin School community. Our primary concern is to provide any and all support to the victims of this disturbing situation.”
BLS and the entire school system are cooperating fully with the investigation as it continues.
A primary concern for parents was how the 36-year-old man – a former BLS student – was able to get access to the school to make the videos in school bathrooms.
A spokesman for the schools said they believe it was an isolated incident, but they are examining BLS’s safety procedures and protocols. They will continue to use Boston School Police and school staff to monitor who is coming and going from the building. Also, a reminder has been put out to students and staff about keeping exterior doors locked and requiring visitors to sign in at the front desk.
Counselors are also available from the BPS Behavioral Services Department for students or faculty seeking emotional support. Any victims of the videotaping incident have been contacted by the schools, and are fully aware of what has happened.
The story broke a little over a week ago when Eric Tran Thai, 36, of Dorchester was charged in Boston Federal Court with five counts of sexual exploitation of children. Authorities became aware of his activities when called to Boston College on two occasions in February, 2018. Students at Boston College alleged they had been videotaped in the men’s restroom without their knowledge.
It is alleged that while speaking with police, Thai admitted to “taking some pictures” of a man in the stall next to him without the man’s consent. He further admitted to engaging in such activity for about a year. Thai was placed under arrest on state charges and his bag was subsequently searched; in it, police found several covert camera devices, including faux smoke detectors, a water bottle containing a small cube recording device, and a pair of sunglasses outfitted with a built-in camera.
During a search of Thai’s home on March 1, 2018, law enforcement seized approximately 26 computer hard drives, 20 thumb drives, 27 covert and regular cameras, 14 computers, iPads, and cell phones, and multiple SD and Sim cards. During forensic analysis of the recovered items, investigators found several folders labeled: BU, MIT, Harvard, Northeastern, Bunker Hill, Boston Latin High School, and several different malls, airports, and foreign country locations. Given the amount of data seized by investigators, forensic analysis is ongoing.
It is alleged that the videos contained in folders labeled “Boston Latin High School” contained approximately 45 surreptitiously-recorded videos of male students in various states of dress using the urinals and stalls in a Boston Latin High School boys’ bathroom. The videos appear to have been created on approximately 10 separate dates between February and December 2017.
In general, the videos show Thai sitting in a bathroom stall at Boston Latin High School recording individuals in adjacent stalls or at the urinals through various secret recording methods. In some videos, Thai appears to hold a camera over the top of the partition between the bathroom stalls and videotaping from overhead. In other instances, he appears to hide a small camera inside of his backpack, place the backpack on the bathroom floor and videotape individuals in the adjacent bathroom stall from under the stall’s partition. While recording, it appears that Thai would simultaneously view what the camera was recording on a cellphone or a tablet device in his possession. The defendant also allegedly surreptitiously video recorded individuals in numerous public restroom locations throughout Greater Boston and elsewhere.