Haven Middle School

District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton says three nooses were found in trees between Haven Middle School and Kingsley Elementary School Friday afternoon.

Evanston police took the nooses and an investigation is under way.

In a website statement, Superintendent Horton says that some Kingsley parents “reported that Haven students were seen allegedly chanting and carrying the ropes to the location where the nooses were found.”

He also says that “notes of support of Haven educators” were also found.

The nooses were discovered after a student protest at Haven over the involuntary transfer of several teachers to other schools effective this fall.

Regarding that protest, in an email to families, Haven principal Chris Latting said some students began an early afternoon “sit-in” to protest the transfers, and while it was largely peaceful, “a number of students became disruptive by leaving classrooms,” and some even exited the building.

Sgt. Ken Carter, Evanston Police spokesperson, tells Evanston Now that an anonymous Haven staff member called police about the protest at 12:45 p.m.

Carter says the number of protesters was originally described as about 100, but when police arrived, the total was “significantly” lower. He says the demonstration originated with 8th graders.

No one was arrested, Carter says, as there was no apparent criminal activity by the student protesters inside or outside of the building.

However before police left, Carter says, a teacher pointed out the nooses to an officer, which were then taken as evidence.

Carter says “a group of juvenile males was observed in possession of nooses during recess,” but at this point no one has been identified.

He also says it’s unclear if the nooses were specifically connected to the protest over teacher transfers, or were just found at roughly the same time.

School administrators, Principal Latting said, worked to “de-escalate” the protest and get the students who went outside back into the building.

Superintendent Horton says what started out as a peaceful demonstration about staffing somehow morphed into “a hate crime and specific incidence of an outwardly racist act,” which will leave a deep and painful impression on the Black community.

In 2020 and 2021, Horton and/or several Board of Education members and district administrators were also targeted by about a dozen racist emails and letters, as well as allegedly homophobic vandalism of a board member’s car.

The noose situation is an ugly cap to a difficult year at Haven, which has seen a teacher knocked over as she was trying to find out more about a student fight, more than 100 teachers and parents packing a school board meeting to complain about discipline and lack of support for educators, and then the teacher transfers.

While educators from several schools are impacted, the transfer of seven Haven teachers, two of whom are union representatives, generated the most controversy.

Three former Haven PTA presidents have claimed the transfers were retribution against those who dared to speak out about problems at the school.

However, administrators said the transfers were needed to avoid layoffs, as the district downsizes staff to due to declining enrollment.

As for the noose incident, Horton says “conversations about race may be difficult,” but they are essential for the community to have in order to prevent this type of behavior.

(This story was updated with additional information at 8:52 p.m.)

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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