ETHS board members at Monday night's meeting.

Nearly half of the students written up for disciplinary infractions at Evanston Township High School last year were Black, even though African Americans represent only a quarter of the student population.

Black students were also suspended at a higher rate than their white and Hispanic peers, although the rate of suspensions for each group has declined over time.

That disproportionality was a major part of the disciplinary story told at Monday night’s District 202 Board of Education meeting, as 2021-22 data was analyzed, and compared to previous school years.

Board Vice-President Monique Parsons said, “I don’t want our Black boys suspended” at such a high rate. “It’s a decline, but they’re still at the top.”

“I get extremely passionate,” Parsons said. “Until we get to zero,” for all students, “this is always a hard report.”

Nearly 18% of ETHS students received some sort of disciplinary measure last year.

  • Black students are 25% of the school’s enrollment but were 43% of those disciplined.
  • Hispanic students are 20% of the school’s enrollment and were 21% of those disciplined.
  • White students are 45% of the school’s enrollment and were 27% of those disciplined.

Last year, 60% of the infractions were for non-violent incidents such as being out of the classroom, not following teacher instructions, or “disrupting the school environment.”

Potentially dangerous offenses, such as assault, weapons possession or even drug usage were each at 1% of the total number of offenses or less.

“I don’t want to diminish the more serious problems,” said board member Gretchen Livingston, “but they really are a tiny percentage” of the total.

Some students were disciplined multiple times. The average for students disciplined was nearly three incidents last year and five students had 21 or more disciplinary referrals apiece.

The report notes that ETHS is listed by the state as being among the top 20% of districts for disproportionality in exclusionary discipline — that is requiring a student to enroll in an alternative program in lieu of outside suspension or expulsion.

In addition, last year there were 89 outside suspensions and 82 involved students of color.

Besides reviewing the data, administrators talked about trying to reduce the number of discipline issues through the use of, among other things, restorative practices, where those cited are counseled, and also apologize to their victims.

It may sound simplistic, but backers say if done properly, restorative measures can help.

ETHS does not exist in a vacuum. Outside realities cannot always be kept outside.

For example, low income students are disciplined at a higher rate than are those from a more financially secure backgrounds.

And violence somewhere else can lead to tension and misbehavior in the school building.

Police cars at the shooting scene on Green Bay Road, November, 2021. (EPD photo)

Nichole Boyd, one of the ETHS deans, noted that students were “hugely impacted by the homicide at the gas station,” on Green Bay Road, where one person was shot and several teenagers were injured in late 2021. Some of the teens were from Evanston.

Boyd also noted that, anecdotally at least, students who are disciplined more often are also less likely to be reading at grade level.

So it’s not just statistics. It can be a young person’s whole future.

Board president Pat Savage-Williams said, “It’s important to look at the data, but these are people, these are students. I want to hear the human side.”

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

Join the Conversation


  1. Is ETHS applying the criteria for discipling on a color blind basis? Is ETHS suspending students who commit a similar infraction in a similar way? The 89 students who were suspended outside of school…what were their infractions? Were there students who committed similar infractions to earn an outside suspension not outside suspended by ETHS?

    As long as the discipline criteria applies to all students equally, ETHS is doing all we can ask of them. Disruptive students are not conducive to creating a positive learning experience for students who behave and come to ETHS to learn.

    1. I was wondering the same thing: if students are receiving equal treatment for equal misbehavior. If black students are being punished more *harshly* than white students for the same infractions, that’s a problem. The same as if boys are being punished more strictly than girls for the same behavior.

  2. I don’t understand this myopic obsession with % of punishment without even a mention of % of infractions. Does black students’ collective behavior and discipline differ from other students or does it not? Do we want to cite FBI stats on % of felonies or not?

  3. Where is Jesse White when we need him? He takes boys as young as 6 and starts them on a disciplined path to be successful tumblers thrilling us all. When you apply you bring your report card. You bring it every time the grades come out. You have three unexcused absences and you’re out. You cannot use any bad language or you re out. He doesn’t look at discipline as a punishment. He sees discipline and accountability as a road to success. I love watching these boys and young men perform for us. I hope they come to our 4th of July parade again. Discipline leads to success

  4. You just gotta love Ms. Parson’s and Ms. Savage-Williams so called “concern” for black students, especially the black boys. How long have they both served on D202 school board? I know it has been a while, so it ain’t their 1st rodeo. Nicole Boyd’s comment about the potential correlation between disciplinary issues and reading abilities is VERY IMPORTANT !!

    Wake up Evanston AND wake up School Boards (yes, that means YOU D65)

    We need more longitudinal analysis that shows how & why students are NOT reading at grade level. AND we should not wait until kids enter ETHS. In fact, Sean Reardon gave a fascinating FAN talk about 5 years ago where he showed that both Black and Brown students were learning at a faster rate than white students from 3rd or 4th grade until they graduated from ETHS. BUT the issue is that they are starting at a much lower level. Kind of like running the Boston marathon. White kids start at the starting line but Black and Brown kids start 10 miles behind. By the end of the race, the commentators lament about the results; more Black and Brown kids drop out of the race and the white kids again take home the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place trophies , again.

    School Boards are critically important to the Evanston community.

  5. I’m pretty sure most kids who are reading below grade level get frustrated during class and probably act up and act out more often; thus, they then get in trouble at school. My husband is white, but he was constantly reprimanded and got into trouble during school because he was a “bad” student, i.e. read below grade level and frustrated, etc. The reason for his “bad” behaviors was due to abuse by his parents. But no one knew about it because when his parents were questioned (by teachers and social workers) about their home life, they said everything was fine, and let him take the fall for being stupid and a “bad” student. It all came out much later in adulthood. All I’m saying is whether black or white (or purple, pink, yellow, gray, red, etc.), if there are problems happening in your life, they will show up in school. But I really get sick and tired of blaming the color of one’s skin for a higher rate of punishment rather than blaming the behavior itself for the punishment. What’s going on in the home??? That’s always the root cause. Where parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles care about the children, they will learn and behave. Rich or poor, black or white, it does not matter. Where there is either neglect or abuse in the home, there will be problems. It’s rather simple.

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