District 65 offices at the JEH Education Center.

Students in Evanston/Skokie School District 65 are behaving better this school year than in the one before.

Assistant Superintendent Terrance Little told a school board committee recently that incidents of misbehavior on buses, in the lunchroom and on the playground have all decreased as of mid-April.

On the buses, for example, Little said the hiring of bus monitors has contributed to a 16.6% reduction in the number of reported incidents (54 in 2022, 43 for the same period this year).

“The entire school experience includes the time when kids make their way to and from the building,” Little told a school board committee.

Assistant Superintendent Terrance Little briefs D65 board committee on April 19 about discipline and safety

Incidents at recess (indoors and outdoors) have dropped 14.6%(506 to 432), and reported problems in the lunchroom have “decreased a significant 26%” (295 to 218).

Little said that lunchroom monitors have received additional training from a nonprofit group called Playworks, which, according to his written report, “has contributed to … [monitors’] efforts in building meaningful and impactful relationships with the students.”

Playworks has also provided strategies on how to keep kids having fun at recess and not bullying their fellow students.

According to the Playworks website, “The natural leaders on the playground are kids, not adults. Kids want to be acknowledged for their leadership abilities and they want to grow. A little encouragement is all kids need to lead games, pass out equipment and set a positive, playful tone.”

Little also outlined District 65’s overall philosophy for safety and security: “Hardening the exterior [of buildings] while cultivating a more welcome and supportive environment inside the schools.”

Each of the system’s 18 schools now has a “concierge,” a greeter/unarmed security person, who checks guests in, patrols the halls, and in case of an emergency, helps secure the building until police arrive.

In March, Little’s report says, reports of a “dangerous individual moving around town” led to a lockdown at Lincoln Elementary, the school closest to what turned out to be a police SWAT response.

Police response Friday, March 17, included NIPAS SWAT team. (Jeff Hirsh photo)

The report said that the school used a “Secure and Teach” program, where classes continued through the lockdown, while school officials “made sure all doors were secured and they hardened the visibility to the inside of the building,” making it tougher to look in.

Despite progress, however, there have still been potentially disturbing incidents. Just one day before Little’s report to the school board, Lincolnwood Elementary went on a brief lockdown after an eight-year-old told his teacher that he had a loaded handgun magazine in his backpack.

There was no gun, just the magazine, and it was the child who informed his teacher of what was in the backpack, and the child made no threats. Police said the magazine belonged to a family member, and the gun was later turned over to police.

While this particular incident involved only a magazine, and the child came forward saying he had it, the magazine did get inside the school in a backpack, raising the question “what if it was a gun?”

District 65 went on record some years ago opposing police “school resource officers” in the buildings, and there is no political backing on the board to change that, nor to have metal detectors at the doors.

Little indicated that “hardening the exterior” while “soften[ing] the interior” is preferred to having cops inside, which some children and parents see as overbearing, particularly to students of color.

Little said that not only is District 65 on the right track, but it is sending a message to other school systems, although some may scratch their heads at the end of his conclusion.

“Our efforts, to ensure safety and a positive learning environment,” Little told the board panel, “combined with our committment to social-emotional learning, transportation safety, athletics, and educational excellence have made us the best district on earth.”

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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  1. That is good news. There are other factors though. According to the 2022-2023 Opening of Schools report, middle school enrollment dropped by about 7% from the prior year (https://www.district65.net/cms/lib/IL01906289/Centricity/Domain/794/Opening%20of%20Schools%20Report%202022-23.pdf). I am guess that is where most disciplinary incidents occur.

    So fewer students should mean fewer disciplinary incidents. But in this case the drop in incidents is more than the drop in student count, so it is still a net positive.

    This is similar to another story from a few months ago (https://evanstonnow.com/suspensions-drop-in-district-65/) about a drop in suspensions. Commenters offered some factors which may have contributed to that drop.

  2. This is just not true. As was said in responses to previous district administration claims, incidents are not being recorded and nothing resembling restorative justice is happening. You can point to having more “face liaisons” in the building which helps a little bit, but there is no “training” happening. Quite simply behavior goes unchecked. Just ask your children.

  3. Anecdotal information in defense of the district: the school climate at Haven this year has been a 180 from last year. Whatever they did and are doing has settled things down and gotten the focus back on learning. My student has had a good year.

    1. Well I’m glad your student is having a good year at Haven, and I agree things have improved from last year. For instance EPD hasn’t been called to the building this year, no teachers have been physically assaulted, and no nooses have been found outside the building. Granted, much of the rowdy element graduated last year so it goes to show why. But my child reports some students are openly disobeying teachers, cutting class, using their phones in class. Far from ideal, but my student agrees with your student, there has been improvement. As for a “180 percent turnaround”, not so sure.

      1. I don’t know, but that seems like pretty standard middle school behavior, unless your kid goes to one of the local private schools that are run like glorified daycares with computer labs.

        I have a hard time getting worked up about pre-teens doing things pre-teens do. They are kids at the end of the day.

  4. Yeah right. How is this even a valid performance metric by the district? The administrators can control and manipulate the statistics by “encouraging” the teachers report fewer disciplinary incidents. I pulled my kids out of 65, and sent them to private. Best decision ever for their future.

  5. D65 teachers enter incidences into Branching Minds (the system the district uses for discipline) and nothing happens. The majority of teachers have simply stopped entering them because there is no follow up by building or district administration. The district is at the point where they are simply not collecting ANY relevant data as far as incidents and teachers are reluctant to fill out anything since they are labeled as ‘racists’ by some school board members, administrators and their acquaintances.
    As far as bus monitors, lunchroom supervisors and recess monitors I would love to know how they report incidences since none of these three positions has access to computers or accounts for the software to be able to fill out incidences; they actually have to be mad enough to take a piece of paper and fill out and complete a report on their own time–quite cumbersome. As far as the kudos for Playworks keep in mind that their philosophy is that all children participate during recess. That has never been how D65 plans recess–students have always been able to chose their own activity and level of movement, it is their unstructured time.
    As for as the “hardening the exterior” what exactly does that mean? I heard that Lincolnwood does not have a school concierge but Little credits that to keeping the school safe when a magazine of bullets was turned in by an 8 year old?!? I also heard a magazine was turned in at Nichols just a few weeks ago. It seems that Little is just a little full of himself.

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