District 65 Offices at JEH Education Center.

Only two students in Evanston/Skokie District 65 have been suspended so far in the current school year, versus 125 in the same period last year.

Those numbers on disciplinary exclusion from class and/or the school were among student behavior data presented to a combined school board committee on Monday afternoon.

The report containing those numbers says “Suspensions have decreased significantly this year because of the increased implementation of restorative practices throughout the district.”

Restorative practices incorporate counseling, the opportunity for the perpetrator to apologize in person to the victim, and the hope of building positive relationships.

The number of disciplinary referrals is also down. There were 4,551 such referrals from August 2022 through January 2023. While that may seem like a lot, most referrals are for relatively minor infractions. And the decrease is dramatic when compared to the same time frame in the previous school year, which saw 12,378.

“We’re on a really good pace” to keep the numbers declining, said Superintendent Devon Horton.

However, Horton also acknowledged that “we know the springtime brings challenges.”

One problem which can lead to disciplinary referrals is bullying, and while the total number of referrals is declining, school officials have also noticed a disturbing increase in bullying.

Elijah Palmer, the district’s director of culture and climate, told the board members that “a lot of the root causes of bullying start outside school,” and often involve social media.

Elijah Palmer at District 65 combined policy and buidlngs committee meeting on Monday.

In his written report, Palmer said, “There have been a few incidences that required immediate attention to assist with parent conferences,” with specific safety plans being developed for potential victims “to provide a sense of security to those families.”

He also noted that a number of bulling investigations are still ongoing.

Palmer said there have been problems lately at Nichols, Lincolnwood, Dewey and King Arts, plus, of course, the incident where a student brought a loaded gun to Chute Middle School.

Last month overall, Palmer said, the “behaviors have escalated to the point that [some] schools are having town meetings to bring awareness to what is taking place.”

On the positive side, the adminstration noted that 82 additional staff members have been trained in crisis prevention since last fall, which may be one reason why the number of suspensions is going down, because staff can intervene before things escalate.

In addition, a new mentorship program at Haven Middle School, the scene of many discipline issues last year, had a celebration where liaison workers hired to provide support to students having behavioral issues met with families.

Palmer reported that the mentorshp program has helped create “a lot of the positive praise now that is being received now at Haven.”

At a future meeting, Palmer will present the results of a districtwide bullying survey, dealing with the behavior itself, “hot spots” in the schools where it is occurring, as well as common places off campus.

Board president Sergio Hernandez noted the importance of bullying prevention, saying “we want everybody to belong.”

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. As a former school social worker I recognize the disconnect between what administrators say in their reports and what the teachers know is really happening. So in District 65 teachers have made 4,551 disciplinary referrals in the approximately 60 school days students attended through January. Out of those referrals only two students have been suspended. Somehow the behavior of those other 4,549 students has been “modified “ Yet the administrators admit that “behaviors have escalated to the point that some schools are having town meetings” And they acknowledge that “spring is coming” usually signaling the students feel less constrained. It would be interesting to hear a report from the teachers themselves who make the referrals rather than the administrators who tend to put a spin on things Of course it would have to be anonymous

  2. It will be interesting to see if the exodus from D65 continues or accelerates as classroom disrupters are not promptly removed from the classroom. I suppose the problem will reveal itself in the district test scores over time.

  3. So you have to imagine the kid with the loaded gun got suspended, even D65 couldn’t get away with ignoring that one. Makes me wonder what the other student did to get suspended.

    1. I would not assume that the student has been suspended.

      District 65 has made no statements related to the student’s status other than that the student was removed from the campus on the day they brought the gun to school.

      The Roundtable updated their story and reported that the kid was no longer being detained and that the EPD spokesperson said it was unlikely that the student will be detained in the future.

      There has been no subsequent update that I have seen from the district, so I wouldn’t assume anything with this administration. They don’t have the best track record of maintaining safety–just look to last year’s incident at Haven where a teacher was hospitalized after a student attack.

  4. It seems to me that there is a huge disconnect between the number of suspensions and the need for safety plans.

    And to the points raised by others, teacher departures will be another marker of the effectiveness of what is being done. Of course, at that point, the damage will be done. Over the near term, bragging rights fir the admin. Winning!

  5. When you forbid the staff from suspending students, of course suspensions are going to drop. This isn’t an accomplishment: The kids know they won’t get in trouble for anything anymore so the problems are only going to continue to escalate. None of the problems in the schools are being addressed with these new policies, they’re just making talking points for this administration to tout their “successes” when things are as bad as they’ve ever been.

  6. We hear a lot from a lot of administrators who had better put a positive spin on District 65 or they will not have their highly paid position They NEVER go near a classroom much less talk to a teacher or a student. We get DATA DATA and on and on. The only ones we never hear from are the teachers If the administrators really cared about what goes on in the classrooms they would step into a school building and get feedback from observing and talking to teachers and students. Instead they stay safely in the administration building having meetings, looking at their spread sheets and computers

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