District 65 Board of Education commitee meeting.

“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.

Parents demonstrate near Haven and Kingsley schools.

Hateful incidents like the hanging ropes, said board member Donna Wang Su during the meeting, cannot continue.

“Our children,” she said, “are watching.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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9 Comments

  1. Yes. But do we know who placed the offending nooses? Real hate crime, or hoax meant as agenda-changing distraction?

    1. Definitely needs to be investigated. It certainly did not take long to capitalize on event for political purposes by silencing dissent.

  2. One fact lost in the commotion over the acts of kids 11-14 years old is that this was yet another day where the adults in charge lost control over what was going on in thst building.

  3. First and foremost, this is 100% wrong and triggering and should prove to be a catalyst to do more long-lasting, anti-racism work all over our community. Period.

    That said, it would also be great if EVERYONE could remember the FACT that “Police have also said it’s unclear if there is any connection between the student protest about teacher transfers, and the nooses going up.”

    Also, there is no one-issue-only world. That doesn’t exist and that isn’t reality. And while this is clearly MOST DISTURBING and a long-standing systemic issue, it is unrealistic to ONLY focus on one issue in life and ignore all the rest. It’s not an either-or situation. Therefore, while dealing with this head on, we MUST ALSO not lose sight of the fact that D65 (Admin and school board) is being run by people who lack transparency, are punitive and DO NOT GIVE THE STUDENTS A VOICE.

    This whole protest started because the students were concerned that some of their favorite teachers were being involuntarily transferred, and the students concerns and voices about this were AGAIN not being listened to and respected.

    D65 has an agenda. And that does not include listening to its students.

    D65 is failing its students. Time for people to wake up and not let them continue to gaslight everyone.

  4. D65 parent above is 100% accurate. Also, they ALL know exactly who placed the nooses there. They also know there is no connection between the nooses and the protests. They can’t / won’t admit it because it’s different from the narrative they are trying to write. Was it a horrible act? No question. Let’s all learn from it and work for a better Evanston. The reality is some people need to wake up and stop the “group think.” Pause. Think for yourself. Don’t impulsively overreact. Speak out and up but only when you have FACTS. Solutions are always complicated and as stated above often contain many different issues. When the board and admin basically refuses to listen to ANYONE and is so entrenched in their beliefs – in almost a fanatical way, it blinds them from wanting to seek FACTS and actually solve problems. We all want to be better. We all want to fight racism in all forms. We all want what is best for all kids. This board and admin has had their chance. They are failing. Time for some rational thought and fresh perspectives.

  5. It bears repeating that the act can be horrible, some people in Evanston are racists, that we need to learn from this AND AT THE SAME TIME the Board and Dr. Horton might be acting in bad faith, operating without integrity and have irrevocably lost the trust of a diverse set of community members.

    A few things to consider.
    First, Dr. Horton is so dedicated to D65 that during a pandemic that radically disrupted the school system he….opened a consulting firm to generate independent income from leadership coaching. Leaders are there for their constituents at times of crisis. COVID 19 was, and continues to be, a time of crisis. How am I as a parent to trust that he has the best interests of my child at heart when he can’t demonstrate an ounce of empathy unless it furthers his agenda, or enriches him somehow? That is not leadership.

    Second, Board members repeatedly tell parents they want partnership, but when they receive the faintest whiff of negative feedback they retreat to lecturing, chastising, and closing the lines of communication. None of those behaviors are reflective of partnership. Partnership does not equal only entertaining ideas that fit into your narrow worldview, nor does it equal lording specialized training or behaving as though your experience is the only experience that matters. For example, it might shock the Board and Dr. Horton to learn this, but there are many people in the community who have received as much, if not more, DEI training than they have who still believe they are not making good decisions. But, those people do exist.

    Third, together the Board and Dr. Horton have not displayed an ounce of accountability to the community and operate in a manner that can only be charitably described as authoritarian. And this culture has bled down to the deepest levels of the district and how even employees at the lowest levels of the D65 hierarchy communicate with and treat community members.

    The nooses are a horrible reminder that we have a long way to go as a community to right the generational wrongs caused by racism. However, the existence of the nooses does not change the fact that Dr. Horton has been a miserable failure as a superintendent – incapable of calming tense situations; incapable of bringing people across lines of difference together to solve problems; and incapable of cultivating and selling a vision for Evanston’s schools that will galvanize the entire community.

    The racist act at Haven this last week has changed none of that.

  6. Certainly agree that hanging nooses in trees is a display of terribly hateful and hurtful symbolism, right up there with, for instance, painting swastikas on a synagogue. Of course we all hope the perpetrator is located.

    What troubles me greatly is that Dr. Horton decided on the day of the incident to focus his hate crime allegation directly on Haven students, presumably white students, without waiting for any facts to be investigated and/or corroborated.

    Now Mr. Halperin is lecturing the insufficiently anti-racist/presumably white parents about also being the cause of this. Next Soo La Kim says they “didn’t come out of nowhere” – what exactly does this mean and how on earth does she know what really happened? Do I really have to point out that sometimes nooses are used for emotionally charged fraudulent purposes, i.e. Jussie Smollett?

    If you look at the picture of the ropes, anyone can see that the knotting on there could not have been done by a child. And we are to believe that children could have walked around with these on the school playground and no Haven staff stopped and questioned them- really?

    I think that there is an obsession with race at play here that is everything that’s wrong with this school administration and
    board right now. Spreading unsubstantiated and racially charged allegations around before the facts have been determined only serves to divide the community. Just look at the vitriol that’s being unleashed in the online forums.

    “Anti-racism” is just a term invented the author Ibram Kendi by the way. And if this is how they want to practice and preach it, then count me out.

  7. All of this and the other recent issues and problems bubbling up at Haven JHS are very disturbing. Certainly there must be accountability for the hate perpetrated. I’d like to add that while I don’t have pupils at Haven, some of my friends do… After conversations with them, I would posit that many of these issues are due to a lack of accountability and leadership by the Principal and a broad stroke deflection onto the student and teacher body by Principal Latting… some deeper inquiries should be made.

    Respectfully, Brian G. Becharas

  8. What happened with the nooses is truly awful. Let’s not minimize it. Let’s sit with it for a while.

    Collectively, we should all be sick to our stomachs. I’m glad white Evanston is having to reckon with this. I think only good growth and change can come from it. What I’m most sorry about is that this growth must come at the expense of Black and brown peace. That their safety and security has been jeopardized so that white Evanston can learn yet ANOTHER lesson about race. That’s wrong. It’s extremely angering.

    But what Horton and the board are doing, using this issue to distract from what is happening at Haven, is also wrong. I didn’t say equally wrong. I said it’s not right. The building is so clearly, heartbreakingly, painstakingly out of control. It is hemorrhaging. There are so many CHILDREN crying out for help. Black children, white children, honestly most of these kids. Do we care about any of them? Do we want to help them, assist in their development, help them learn and grow? Do we want to get to the root of all of these issues that are festering? This administration is not helping to solve these problems.

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