haven-middle-school
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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25 Comments

  1. Broad daylight, no positive ID, and advanced knots used. Let’s dig into this story a bit more before we label some children guilty. We must find the answer as a community.

    1. I am alarmed by the speed with which the district is accusing children of a hate crime. There have been no photos released.

      1. I’m alarmed at the speed to which you replied to defend white students instead of making a comment on how horrific this hate crime is and how we must fight to stop this from happening again.

        1. I don’t recall defending “white” students. I’m more voicing alarm at district leadership’s continued inability to calm things down.

          I also don’t believe you have kids at Haven. I expect you’ll be enrolling them out of solidarity with central office?

      2. Do you really think that’s it’s impossible for White students to not act in this way. I know first hand of how this can happen as I went to a high school with 8 black students and was called the n word and made to feel like I was not apart of the school by the students. I was not bussed into this community and actually lived there. I’m willing to bet my last dollar that majority of the fights are stemming from some sort of back lash from the other students. Where do these kids get this behavior from?! Why is it ok to let this behavior slide but quick to make get “rid” of the black students! Yeah the answer is to put “them” in their own school, how racist does that sound! Yes I’m not disregarding that there are some bad seeds but get to the root and stop thinking that it’s one sided because they’re is clearly a problem.

      3. Seriously?? Three nooses hanging from a tree and to you, this could possibly NOT be a hate crime?

        I’m embarrassed

    2. Oh sure, forget commenting how horrible this hate crime is and that Black children had to endure this trauma, calling their parents to pick them up. Funny how you’re so quick to say let’s wait a minute but not even address the actual hate crime. Where are all the white parents who were yelling for zero tolerance and for expelling Black students but they’re all silent now. I bet they’ll be asking for second chances if this was a white student(s) who did this. Either way, this falls on the shoulders of all those who’re parents screaming and telling at Black and LGBTQIA+ board members and the vitriol directed as Sr. Horton. They created this environment in so called progressive Evanston. We’re no better than the towns we expect these incidents to occur.

      1. Sir. Go look at next steps which those board members promote in the pta blast. They put people into racial based accountability and affinity groups it says on the website. That’s why Dewey’s principle left and there are federal lawsuits about the segregation of students and admin based on color. You have it backwards

        1. It’s called equity and anti-racism. But I’m sure you want to focus on banning math books and the CRT boogie man. Interesting that you point out a frivolous lawsuit by a known racist teacher that was only taken up by right wing southern lawyers. The lawsuit will fail spectacularly and white supremacists will continue to cry. Meanwhile, we have domestic terrorists all around us like the noises and shooting in Buffalo but the problem is reckoning with our country’s past and current racism?

  2. This was a hate crime plain and whoever is responsible deserves some form punishment. It’s time to talk the talk. White kids (or parents) should be punished too if they were responsible. No more privilege!

    1. Please comment on the Waukesha guy and the nyc subway attacker maybe their family members should be held responsibility too

  3. This is a great teaching moment for everyone – black, white, etc. Take advantage of this moment to show right from wrong.

    Young kids are so impressionable, they didn’t come up with these thoughts on their own. Have to hold parents accountable – give both counseling and help.

    It’s easy to point the finger and yell – anyone can do that.

  4. The drive by shooting of a 15 year old girl and an armed robbery, both on Washington street in the past few days, will get no community attention. But nobody will stop talking about this toothless provocation for months. Our priorities are so backwards.

  5. It’s called the Jussie Smollett affect. White people are becoming nauseated by the racial bullying and are getting a stronger nose for BS. Also, Horton was pretty much hired by a rogue school board to blow up D65 and I would believe he planted them to deflect before I self flagellate. But nice try Matt Temkin

    1. Poor white people. Must so be so hard for us to be white huh? Imagine being Black in this country. Racial bullying? Us white people need to reckon with racism and white supremacy instead of nurturing like you do.

  6. It can be true that this is a horrific and repugnant hate crime….and also true that Dr. Horton and the Board are terrible at their jobs… and also true that Dr. Horton plays up the first truth to mask the second truth… and also true there are racists in Evanston who are teaching their kids terrible things. Many things can be true at one time.

  7. Nooses displayed in public spaces is an appalling, horrible hate crime and only the extreme fringe element would suggest otherwise.

    This hate crime needs to be investigated at the federal level and WHOEVER is determined to be the culprit should be held accountable – as it stands now the student body of Haven has been maligned by Horton’s apparent suggestion that Haven pro-teacher student protesters are behind this, which appears to be more than the police are willing to suggest based on facts present at this time.

    Never say never but I am in total disbelief that 8th graders in the most progressive and liberal community in the state of Illinois who have been taught an anti-racist curriculum for years could be responsible for this.

    With that said, IF Haven youth are found to be responsible they should be held fully accountable to whatever the national standards in law are for youth of this age for this class of hate crime, and at the school level, some serious restorative justice would be needed such as an in-school 3-day suspension doing janitorial service and picking weeds on school grounds in front of their peers.

    1. What do you mean by hate crime? This is a horrible thing that should not have happened under any means, and should be punished. But what do you mean by hate crime? This is probably vandalism, but no actual crimes were commited besides that(to my knowledge). And for restorative justice, anyone actually punished will just skip school until it’s over because no one even wants to keep going to Haven, a place known to multiple students as a s***hole, anymore.

  8. Perhaps a hate crime. Perhaps a hate crime hoax– there have been many. Best not to rush to judgment.

    1. Yes there needs to be a full investigation to determine who was responsible. I will be interested to see what the findings are. Things have been highly politically charged and contentious at D65 for some time and at Haven specifically. Clearly these actions were the result of that turmoil but it remains to be seen who was behind it and what their motivations were.

  9. if the 2 of you that think parents and children should be punished for this victimless crime, but aren’t offended by the racial BLM and LGB curricullum, you need to seriously look in the mirror. Being racist agaisnt white people doesn’t mean you aren’t racist

    in this beatiful country, there is this thing. its called innocent until proven guilty. Except with d65 community

  10. Nooses aside, many of you are in denial about the racial climate at Haven. My mixed raced student who lives north of Central Street was racially teased at recess this year by his very “progressive” White peers. They evoked cotton picking, watermelon, and friend chicken racial tropes. While our students are learning antiracist curriculum, something is clearly lost in translation with respect to its application in real life. I am not thrilled with District administration, and didn’t vote for those on the current school board, but I also don’t believe they owe children an explanation about personnel decisions. The privilege and entitlement of the protest aside, I also recognize the number of white parents leaving D65 for what it is and has been, White flight out of public schools. Progressive White parents are uncomfortable with Black students and Black leadership and fear for their fragile White children who were born on third. I was for a time sympathetic and perhaps in denial myself, but I am now seeing our community and to frank my friends for what and who they are. Shame on me once . . .

    1. Your observations couldn’t be farther from the truth. I moved here embracing the racial diversity – I could have chosen a whiter more conservative community but I didn’t. The only thing that changed was that Horton was hired, kept schools closed way too long, and openly called parents white supremacists. Not exactly an environment conducive to learning or much of anything good. White parents are leaving in droves because they value education and it’s been eroded drastically by Horton and his incompetent cronies. My kids now attend schools just as diverse as D65 but with none of the BS. Best decision ever. Evanston needs to wise up and fast.

  11. This situation is a mess and the often divisive tone apparent on the facebook pages and here reflect that. My kids are grown so I have no personal involvement, but I had a few initial thoughts and followed up by watching the District 65 school board meeting on 4/18.

    When I first read about the nooses, I was horrified–and still am troubled. But then I read Dr. Horton’s letter and it seemed to me that he was using it to further an agenda. I was also struck by his signature of “unapologetically.” Why would a school administrator sign his name that way?

    When I watched the school board meeting, I thought the two African American male teachers were very credible and presented genuine concerns in a thoughtful way. While I was not happy with the heckling, it also occurred to me that everyone was directed to communicate with the board via email. Not an excuse for heckling, but it made it more understandable. There seems to be little effort to achieve common ground.

    I looked at Dr. Horton’s website, in which he markets his consulting services, and note that he refers to himself as a “Turnaround Leader.” I see that he was an AUSL principal, which was a controversial program recently discontinued by CPS. A simple google search shows some of the methods and allegations concerning AUSL, which interested people can read and discern. I also noted that in 2013, he topped the list for the most indebted city workers owing money to the City of Chicago. https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/chicago-workers-owe-city-millions-in-unpaid-debt/2049839/

    I am assuming this is old news and was addressed during the hiring/vetting process, but, at least to me, it raises a lot of concerns.

    Bottom line, the District exists to serve the needs of all the children it educates. All discipline matters need to be investigated and addressed equitably. Having raised children, I disagree with the comments that all of the discipline problems are the parents’ fault–and this is a race neutral. Kids are heavily influenced by their peer groups and do really stupid things. The parents are, however, responsible for how they react to their children’s behavior and what steps they take to address it. From what I am observing, it does not seem that the district leadership is doing much to promote common ground and is actually fostering division. This is incredibly sad for all.

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