“If you are not outwardly anti-racist you are claiming territory amongst those who are racist.”
That strong statement, from Evanston/Skokie school board member Joey Hailpern, summed up the anger, frustration, and call to action expressed Monday afternoon during a District 65 committee meeting, regarding the three nooses found on school property on Friday.
“The hate expression” in those nooses, Hailpern said, “is rooted in white supremacy.”
The nooses were discovered in a tree between Haven Middle and Kingley Elementary schools, following a student sit-in at Haven in opposition to the transfer of several teachers to other buildings.
“Nothing says you don’t belong here” to Black students and staff, said board member Soo La Kim, “as clearly as those three nooses.”
The ropes “did not come out of nowhere,” she added. There is a “racialized us vs them mentality at Haven,” she noted, following a year of controversy involving student fights, teacher complaints about student behavior and lack of administration support, and allegations by a number of parents that the teacher transfers were retaliation by the district against educators who dared to speak out about problems.
The district has denied those retaliation charges, saying the teacher transfers, with a union-endorsed process, were needed to shift employees in order to prevent layoffs.
Hailpern, chair of the Personnel, Buildings & Grounds, and Finance Committee, said that “white District 65 students and staff must step up” to support and protect Black children and adults from hate.
“There is no gray space any more,” he said.
Evanston Police are working to determine if there were any security cameras in the Haven/Kingsley area, and if so, whether there is any relevant video.
Police have said some juveniles were seen with ropes during recess on Friday, but no one has been identified as of now.
Police have also said it’s unclear if there is any connection between the student protest about teacher transfers, and the nooses going up.
The board members’ comments came the same day as more than 100 adults lined the sidewalk in near Kingsley and Haven, to express their outrage over the nooses, and their support for children of color.
Hateful incidents like the hanging ropes, said board member Donna Wang Su during the meeting, cannot continue.
“Our children,” she said, “are watching.”