District 65 Curriculum & Policy Committe, April 4.

Out-of-school suspensions are on the increase, but the number of clinicians to deal with student emotional problems has decreased, according to comments at an Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board committee meeting Monday evening.

Board vice-president Biz Lindsay-Ryan said there has been a growing number of incidents where gay and lesbian students are experiencing “misogynistic and homophobic” comments, and “toxic masculinity” has led to a growing number of fights in middle school.

“That’s the way it was for me in the ’80s,” Lindsay-Ryan said, “but I hope in Evanston in 2022 we can do a little better.”

While specific data was not disclosed, Elijah Palmer, the district’s dean of climate and culture, said out-of-school suspensions have increased this year.

“The reality,” Palmer said, “is these numbers are occurring” in the post-COVID return-to-school environment.

And other numbers are not helping.

Palmer said the 9 to 10 clinicians the district used to have to deal with such issues are down to one or two, due to “burnout” and people leaving.

District 65 does plan to train multiple staff members in restorative justice practices later this month, a way to improve student behavior and cut down the number of suspensions.

Lindsay-Ryan said she’s seen a lot of parental comments that disruptive and violent students are not being punished.

But she said the best way to improve discipline and help students learn is not to have a lock-’em-up mentality.

“We should frame this as a mistake made by children,” Lindsay-Ryan said, and find a way to improve their behavior rather than dealing with incidents as a crime, and creating a “prison-consequence system.”

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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25 Comments

  1. In regards to behavior and suspensions, it’s easier to comment when you do not deal with those behaviors on a daily basis. Also, outsiders (and even some admin) tend to focus on the student(s) being suspended. Rarely do they consider the handful and sometimes dozens (in a classroom setting) of students who are negatively affected by the fights/poor behavior of others. One possible solution would be to have a Dean of Climate and Culture who is trained in restorative practices and whose ONLY job is to work with students and staff surrounding behavior and school culture. This person could have a space where students could take a break, calm down, meet with social workers or admin etc before next steps are determined. The Instagram district (D65) claimes they are doing this and many other things in their communications to families and the community as they construct their (false) narrative. RP’s and many other policies and procedures are not happening with any consistency or fidelity whatsoever.

    1. Biz Ryan continues to show Evanston she doesn’t knows enough about schools to represent the community’s kids and families, let alone get them educated.

    1. What did schools ever do before we had a Dean of Climate and Culture at our schools? Wonder why your property taxes are so high? We have positions like this in our schools!
      “Palmer said the 9 to 10 clinicians the district used to have to deal with such issues are down to one or two, due to “burnout” and people leaving.” – They had to use 9-10 “clinicians” to deal with middle school kids? What ever happened to parenting?
      If you think this new woke way of raising and teaching our kids is working, you are wrong! What are these kids going to do when they grow up have to deal with real problems? Wake up! This has to stop!

  2. Reading through the story I’m struck by Ms. Lindsey-Ryan’s use of a term which which labels half of the human population as guilty of being “toxic”. I’m sorry but if she “hope(s) in Evanston in 2022 we can do a little better” than what she experienced in the 1980’s, and in the spirit of framing these incidents “as mistakes made by children”, I would respectfully request that she reconsider her use of pejorative terms like “toxic masculinity” that label an entire group/class of people in a negative light. As a teacher in the field of diversity/equity/inclusion consulting, I would hope that she could reflect on this constructive criticism through the lens of her own anti-bias teachings.

    1. Think you are misunderstanding the term “toxic masculinity” here. It does not refer to all masculinity, just an extreme form. If you want to know more, Google it.

      1. Richard Sharpe & Stacey Joyer – I agree 100% with everything you say above. Thank you. Lets vote these clowns out!

  3. This is laughable to read in a funny, not funny kind of way. To hear this board member speak and be quoted on these things, yet again, when she hired the exact people who dismantled the progress the district was making with restorative practices, well, the gaslighting continues. Educators have been begging to reinstate proper and formal restorative practices.

    We had in-building coaches a few years ago, but those positions were eliminated. We had many educators trained at that time, but this administration is not interested in consulting with that cohort of people. They are interested in bringing in their own people. They are interested in pretending that this district was a black hole of racism and incompetence before they came, that there is no good to maintain, that we struggle because “change is hard.” Good change is not hard. Good change feels like growth, but growth takes time. Ripping a seed out of the ground and planting a new one is not growth, but it is change.

    Here is what is true. Students are being suspended for egregious behavior infractions that make schools unsafe for us all, BUT they are not being guided through the necessary processes to repair the harm caused to their communities when they return. Again, educators have been begging for this to be remedied, and educators must be a part of this process for it to be effective.

    The change we see in our schools is a combination of back to the old ways (suspension, excessive testing), and the new (counselors, tutors, etc) who are hired and fired (or often quit!) with little to no training or vision for how they fit into our existing schools.

    The “plans” in District 65 these days are always big picture but a day late and a dollar short in terms of implementation. The PR-turned-gaslighting machine is the only thing running smoothly.

    1. 100%. The administration’s routine inability to connect cause (their actions) and effect, is stunning.

    2. How many times are we going to have to say the same thing, over and over again? I’m so tired. This board is delusional. The emperor has no clothes!!! This administration is not DOING ANYTHING ACTIONABLE. They are talking and talking. Like the original poster said, their PR machine is the only piece of this group that works.

      I was one of those educators formally trained in restorative practices. This was pre-pandemic. The next year our very knowledgeable coach, who oversaw us, was pulled from our building and reassigned. This was a hard working, brilliant, and deeply effective individual. We had the groundwork done and prepped for restorative practices. All we needed was follow through and guidance. Well, best of luck. That 100% does not exist in this district.

      I’m so tired of being labeled as “old guard,” or “resistant to change.” I love change. I want impactful, meaningful change. This administration doesn’t care.

      If every single person in this community doesn’t wake up and understand you’ve been hoodwinked, I’m just not sure what will happen.

    3. Thank you. It’s depressing how little the administration does to improve student outcomes. They provide no evidence that improved outcomes will result from their agendas (like building a new school). Instead of pushing out talented principals and calling parents white supremacists, maybe they should fire some consultants and use the money to empower teachers to actually teach the kids. We all know they’ll be blaming poor outcomes on COVID for years to come if we don’t manage to vote them out ASAP. There’s nothing left to blame but themselves.

  4. Well, let’s look on the bright side! Luckily we will have a nice new school where all the kids can beat each other up!

    Thanks, “Biz”!

  5. I’m super-concerned that restorative justice is being misused as a buzz word. It is a criminal justice theory with very specific components. Criminals (especially juveniles) do not benefit from leniency for its own sake. If you are only making excuses for unlawful behavior it is enabling the problematic behavior and setting the wrongdoer up to fail. An RJ participant is supposed to have a closely-monitored path toward leniency based upon a series of direct atonements to their victims (who must be voluntary participants as well) i.e. ongoing financial restitution or public apologies, etc. You are supposed to make the participant jump through hoops under the constant threat of incrimental consequences (detention, suspension, expulsion, jail). It is very time consuming and expensive but it can have amazing results, although you must be willing to enforce the rules of the program with severe consequences if necessary. It is powerful stuff. But doing RJ wrong is worse than never implementing it at all.

    1. This is such an important, informed point. You cannot just throw out words like restorative justice and claim you are doing it. It is unfair to parents and most of all kids. Another example of how this board would rather blame someone else than do the hard work of running our schools with intention and integrity.

  6. As always, so much to unpack here…

    First off, how do we address the bloated administration and the end run the board made to keep Horton around with even less requirements than before? Now he can close schools and lay off teachers and staff with no repercussions. The chaos continues, with nothing to show for it but a floundering district with miserable staff and school administrators.

    Do you want a perfect example of the board’s inability to think about anything but their own identity politics? Here it is in a nutshell. Bullying and fighting, incoherent and insufficient curricula from K-8, and Biz wants to talk about her experience and to call out “toxic masculinity”? Let’s talk about toxic boards with toxic agendas and toxic followers who make it a scary thing to speak against the madness. Again, case in point, let’s go back to the UNANIMOUS vote to retain a superintendant who has turned a good district with some issues into a disastrous turnaround district.

    Let’s talk again about the enforcement of uniformity and the culture of threats and
    bullying by members of the D65 Facebook page who are on equity committees and are spouses of administration members.

    Let’s talk again about the simple fact that the achievement gap is still widening, because our administration and board prefer the appearance of progress over actual progress.

    The choice is clear here: in the coming election, Anya Tanyavutti, Marquise Weatherspoon, and Sergio Hernandez are up for election. Vote for literally anyone but them, and then choose in 2025 anyone but the rest of the standing board.

    These people are creating irreparable harm to the district; financially and educationally, we are worse off than–even considering the pandemic–we were before. That is across the board, at all socioeconomic strata. Who is going to be held accountable here?

    Apparently, for now, no one.

    1. Thank you for your perspective. The D65 board and administration increasingly has very little credibility because time and again, they are unwilling to acknowledge that the district is in shambles, but not for the reasons they think. Any criticism of how piss-poor they are managing the district is seen as racism, homophobia, “toxic masculinity,” etc. It’s like they want there to be a “culture and climate” problem so they actively go out of their way to create one. All of this nonsense is incredibly wasteful of student potential. Imagine how our district’s kids could be performing if the district were actually interested in addressing academics.

    2. You are 100% right. The administration and the board are just INCOMPETENT! let’s add to the mix the group of bullies (yes, those who think they know everything and will call you a racist if you don’t agree or even dare to say anything about it) defending them on the D65 Facebook group. It’s TOXIC from the top!

  7. Please allow me to paraphrase how we got here, somewhat predictably…

    1. We looked at suspensions and noticed inequity in the distribution.
    2. Our solution to this was to stop suspensions (the outcome).
    3. We now notice bullying and maybe that’s because there is no fear of suspension.
    4. Our solution to this unintended consequence is to start talking about bullying and put it into the Super’s contract. Almost as if we are ignoring the original cause for #1.

    Does anyone else feel like we are just winging it? Wouldn’t a more responsible approach here be to beta test these theories for actual facts and data? Pick one class at one school and eliminate suspensions and let’s see the results before putting the whole district through an exercise that feels more like resume building than caring for these students?

    We really only have ourselves to blame. We had bad results before the last election and we voted in the very same people. Did we expect different results? There is a clinical term for that expectation. The only choice is to let our democracy work in the next election and make all voices heard because the kids get no voice in an election. They are merely pawns in all of this.

  8. I’ve lived in Evanston since 1966 and still cannot understand why the same things keep happening and happening in spite of resolutions by boards to deal with them, over and over again, year after year, generation after generation of kids who leave 13 years of a greatly expensive education without one or without the most it could be.
    One thing is well known by all and constantly repeated: The most important thing for students success in schools is PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT. Which is not the case in Evanston as much as it should be, especially among minorities. So, and I already shared the story with the current board: I watched the amazing success in student achievement at West Oso High school in Padre Island Tx. The student body was some 80% VERY POOR hispanic. Yet the academic success was amazing. The secret? The principal created in both students and parents an INTIMATE relationship with the school. How? The school had no money so the students painted walls, fixed the gym, and collected money for a computer lab. They also gave English and computer lessons to their parents, after school. They themselves were in charge to make the parents come in for the classes. As for the principal: every month he INVITED groups of parents by SPECIAL invitations written BY HIS OWN HAND and delivered by the kids to their parents, to have dinner or lunch with him, at the school. They chatted and most importantly, they felt at home in the school. They discussed ways in which parents could help their kids to do good work, EVEN when these hispanic parents had hardly had a bare education, mostly no more than 2nd grade, if any. When I visited the school and the classrooms, the students grades were posted on the wall and were amazingly good.
    Today the principal is not there anymore. So I wonder whether his good ideas are still there or have disappeared in the bureaucratic obfuscation of public education……

  9. D65 Board VP Biz Lindsay-Ryan should resign. The Board VP’s unjustified misandric mischaracterization of young boys in D65 is inexcusable and cannot be condoned. Lindsay-Ryan’s reported use of such a highly divisive and controversial terms to describe D65 children, and theory that “toxic masculinity” is the root cause of problems in D65 denies the human dignity and personality of young children and sustains the peculiar demonization and marginalization of boys that attend school in D65.

    For too long, boys in D65 have been unfairly characterized as violent, misogynist, delinquents or predators by gender theorist and certain types of feminists under the guise of educators or administrators attempting to improve D65 campuses. These strategically placed false characterizations of boys bear close resemblance to the 19th century feminist movement when early feminists argued that virtually all Black males were sexual predators and unworthy of the right to vote. As was the case in the 19th century, Lindsay-Ryan’s reported defamatory characterization of young boys in D65 today are not rooted in actual studies or empirical findings. There is no apparent indication that VP Lindsay-Ryan provided any data to substantiate her alarming anti-male claims or attempted to be anti-sexist or anti-racist in her comments or testimony. The reported behavior is particularly troublesome given that Lindsay-Ryan had reason to know that describing young boys in D65 as violent, toxic and misogynists would trigger headlines and make boys in D65 the targets of increased but undeserved surveillance, punishment, ridicule, and contempt. Lindsay-Ryan’s reported conduct squarely points to and facilitates the existence of a hostile learning environment for boys attending schools in D65.

    It is time to question, why boys in D65 are disproportionately punished for engaging in harmless childish behavior? Why is it that unless boys in D65 cater to nearly every personal liking of their teachers, who are overwhelmingly female, they are deemed delinquent or dysfunctional? Why do D65 boys outperform the grades D65 teachers assign them when they take standardized test? Why are boys in D65 more likely than girls in D65 to fail to meet basic proficiency in reading, math, science and writing? Why are D65 boys more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than D65 girls, like their adult counterparts, but less likely to receive proper support from D65 staff or the school board? Why are boys in D65 less likely to attend college or wound up at the top of their class? Why is there an abundance of D65 sponsored activities tailored for girls and virtually none for boys? The emerging culture and data clearly suggest that boys in D65 are not being fairly treated or evaluated, but rather are being targeted and demonized for merely being boys and masculine, and trained to believe that by merely being masculine they are toxic, morally subordinate or innately inferior.

    It is sad that D65 has become a place where boys, particularly boys resembling any degree of masculinity or adherence to traditional familial values, don’t matter or are deemed “toxic.” Too many D65 policies, programs and sponsored activities are rooted in the belief that masculinity, or a purported masculine sense of entitlement, is the root cause of D65 boy health, behavior and developmental problems, rather than misguided anti-male bias in D65 and an ineffective curriculum that demonizes boys and traditional male personality and dignity. VP Lindsay-Ryan’s reported discriminatory and unsubstantiated accusations and characterizations underscores an ideological bias that warrants Lindsay-Ryan’s removal from the Board. Lindsay-Ryan does not appear to have a problem with the diminishing number of D65 males on high school and colleges campuses or the comparatively dismal academic results linked to D65 boys. Because of the apparent bias of Lindsay-Ryan and perhaps others , whereas other school districts have improved their outcomes, D65 has been moving in the wrong direction for years in an apparent attempt to impose cultural preferences and ignite social transformations rather than educate children and respect parental rights. We have now passed the point where there is a need for a U.S. Dept. of Education investigation into whether D65’s treatment of boys violates federal law.

    If the reported comments were made, I add my voice to the chorus denouncing Lindsay-Ryan’s ideological bias and denigration of young boys and traditional families in D65, and call on Lindsay-Ryan’s immediate resignation.

  10. Stacey Joyer & others calling for BIZ’s RESIGNATION- YES!! We left Evanston when our son was told to check his “white privilege” at the door at Nichols. Good luck to the families in Evanston who are fighting for their sons. BIZ clearly has issues with white men and should not be in any “leadership” position on a school board. I’ll be watching from afar as we will never return to Evanston.

  11. In response to the news story D65 VP: ‘Toxic Masculinity’ Causing Major Problems, I join those calling for Biz Lindsay-Ryan’s immediate resignation.

    As the mother of a young boy in this school district, I’m concerned that she would even use the cultural war label “toxic masculinity” especially at a time when boys are in crisis. Here are some statistics:

    In the U.S., by eighth grade, 41% of girls
    are at least proficient in writing vs. only
    20% of boys.

    In 2020 only 39% of college graduates
    were males.

    During the 2020-2021 academic year, U.S.
    universities and colleges were down 1.5
    million in student enrollment and males
    made up 71% of that loss.

    The leading cause of death for black males
    age 1 to 44 is homicide.

    7 out of 10 suicide deaths are white males.

    The education of our sons is a key determinant of their future health and success in life. When we have someone on our board of education who is not aware of the struggles our sons are facing in life, she cannot be of help to them.

    Rather than focus on academics like reading, writing, math and science that can help ALL of our children succeed in life, Lindsay-Ryan would rather focus on ideological objectives that indoctrinate young minds to think like she does under the guise of putting a stop to bullying, even though kids get bullied for many reasons outside of identifying as LGBTQ. Here are a few lesson plans and books that are part of the District 65 curriculum starting in pre-k (3 to 5 year olds).

    In the book, I am Jazz by Jazz Jennings it
    states ”I have a girl brain but a boy body.”

    The book My Princess Boy talks about a
    four year old boy whose favorite color is
    pink, likes to dress up in girly dresses and
    dances like a beautiful ballerina.

    The book Julian is a Mermaid is about a
    boy who wants to dress up as a mermaid.

    A lesson plan where each student is given
    a black and white photo of themselves as
    well as water color paints, feathers,
    ribbons, glitter and sequins. And then
    they’re told “Now you can paint yourself as
    unique and amazing as you’d like!”

    It seems as though they are trying to emasculate our sons at a very young and impressionable age. They are trying to infiltrate their brains and groom them into LGBTQ culture. I understand that there are transgender children out there, but it is the job of parents to give them love, read these books and make the right choices for their children and families. It’s called the parenting lane, and District 65 needs to merge out of it and back into the lane of educator.

    There could be Elon Musks and Robert F. Smiths in our District 65 classrooms whose potential will be squandered because they spent too much time learning “fluff” in the classroom instead of having relevant and pivotal learning experiences.

    All of this is not to say that our daughters don’t matter, it just points out the statistics that as females have been rising up for decades, males have been falling behind. “Whenever only one sex wins, both sexes lose.” (Quote from the book The Boy Crisis)

    Biz Lindsay-Ryan, please resign from the District 65 Board of Education.

    1. Amen. We’d also ask that the district make clear the collective payment and the associated years, it extended Biz for consulting services.

  12. Great point ^Elizabeth^. I also wonder if it is appropriate that the D65 board are currently using taxpayer money pay for the services of DE&I consulting firms that they still work for?! Like Biz Ryan’s http://www.lrconsultingllc.net (Save the date! Equity, Diversity and Inclusion training session Feb. 23 )? Also would be good to know how much money is being directed to Next Steps consultant group by D65. That consultancy has several D65 staff among its members including Anya Tanyavutti

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