Nichols Middle School.

Another despicable symbol of hate has been placed at a school in Evanston/Skokie District 65.

According to a community message from Superintendent Devon Horton, a staff member reported finding “swastikas along with racist and hurtful messages written on stalls in two bathrooms” on Thursday.

Horton said the community is “still reeling from the hateful act” of nooses being hung outside Haven and Kingsley schools on May 13.

The noose, with its connection to lynchings, is one of the ugliest symbols of anti-Black hatred and violence.

“And now,” Horton stated, “to find swastikas, a symbol of terror and hatred towards the Jewish community, we are reminded once again that antisemitism, racism, and white supremacy are alive and well within our community.”

The superintendent said that hate symbols cause ongoing and long-lasting harm, “creating futher division and distance,” with a need for “repercussion and repair.”

He said “there is no doubt that these are learned behaviors and clearly with well established roots.”

Horton stated that the district’s mental health team will be available for any students who may need support in processing this latest incident. He added that there will also be “a learning opportunity for students and an opportunity for reflection, ongoing dialogue, and action.”

The bathrooms in question were immediately closed, and the Evanston Police Department was contacted to help in the investigation.

“We take this outward and intentional act of hate extremely seriously,” Horton said.

He said incidents such as the nooses and the swastikas prove the need for ongoing efforts “to dismantle institutional racism, combat bias, [and] disrupt the status quo — all in an effort to truly foster a sense of belonging, welcomeness, and physical and emotional safety within our schools.”

Horton said this should have been the time to celebrate and honor eighth grade graduates.

And while there is much to celebrate, the superintendent noted that it is critical to “name these hateful acts as they occur, and create opportunities for healing and repair so that we can truly stand together as a community.”

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. I hope I’m not the only one who can see through this.

    Finding swastikas painted on a synagogue is a hate crime. Kids scribbling all sorts of offensive messages and images on the walls of bathroom stalls is not. Every day all across America ridiculously inappropriate and offensive things are painted over on bathroom stall walls, as they should be. Does Dr. Horton really need this to be pointed out to him?

    So what is really going on here? The community is waiting to hear evidence about the noose incident outside Haven school which Dr. Horton alleged was “possibly” a hate crime committed by one group of students (ie white kids) to intimidate another (ie black students). He made this massively inflammatory accusation on the day the incident occurred, as the police investigation was just getting started. Weeks later we remain completely in the dark about what evidence was located and what investigators have learned. So when will we hear the truth of what really went on that day outside of Haven school?

    Dr. Horton was so quick to sound the five-alarm racial fire siren that day, while pointing his finger directly at a group of Haven students, but did doing so show good judgment or leadership on his part? It certainly was convenient how making that accusation completely shut down any and all of the questioning that was going on of his alleged retaliatory transfers of some of Haven’s longest tenured teachers, who just so happened to have had publicly called for more help maintaining order in the school.

    And now it’s the bathroom wall scriblings that in his mind reveal that “racism and white supremacy are alive and well within our community”. Wow.

    In my opinion this is not sound leadership, this is stirring up the pot to distract and to obfuscate. And perhaps also to cement his and the current school board’s determination of the need to implement their “anti-racist“ agenda while distracting the community from focusing on the fact that we have still not had a report on what evidence was found out about who placed the nooses outside Haven.

    1. I completely agree with you, and I’m Jewish. This is not a hate crime. It’s a few middle school kids doodling offensive things, which has been happening as long as there has been middle school. I honestly wish this “incident” wouldn’t even be reported to the public. You’re right that the way Horton reacted just further supports his rationale for the extremism of our school administration. Good luck forcibly extracting all the bigotry out of kids- it doesn’t work that way.

  2. I am a 1966 graduate of Nichols Junior High, having attended Oakton School from K through 6 and then graduating from West Hall at ETHS in 1970 when the enrollment was 5500. As a lifetime Evanston resident and part of a family that has resided in Evanston continuously for over 100 years, I was truly discouraged to learn of the recent incidents at Haven and Nichols, but more so by how they were characterized by local officials and then disseminated to parents and the press.

    While some of this might be attributable to an adolescent sort of prankster mentality, I also understand if left unchecked, or more accurately, without consequence, a youth who commits irresponsible acts may grow into an adult capable of malicious actions and violence. So along with all the other unrestrained and unpunished adolescent misbehavior we see these days, what sort of “punishment” or consequences would be appropriate as a response, if those responsible are identified? What kind of slap on the wrist ? What about the loss of all scholarship and grant opportunities, permanent ban on athletic participation, etc.? Not that it carries any weight these days, but my generation would have been subject to a sit down with the wrestling or football coach, both rather fearsome guys and very capable of reading the riot act about what life might look like as a result of choosing to continue on in the same vein. In the case of criminal activity, the choice was to either go to jail or to enlist in the Armed Forces where discipline was a primary part of the curriculum. Sharing a foxhole with others from all races, creeds, and socio-economic classes while underfire was an effective way to learn acceptance and coexistence. Today’s youth do not in many cases seem to have an appreciation of community, or of the benefit they enjoy as a result of the sacrifices and contributions of others.

    Anyway, in my mind we all are faced with events on a day to day basis, and how we respond to those things is our choice. Did anyone ever mention that Nichols has had ceramic tiles embedded with swastika designs in the main entry foyer floor since the school was built? And that prior to the adoption of the swastika by the Nazis, “the swastika goes back thousands of years and has been used as a symbol of good fortune in almost every culture in the world.”

    So, maybe the school administrators should educate their students that the misuse of the swastika is a recent aberration, and expand the young minds of their students to appreciate different ways of interpreting events and how to coexist with others. In their words and actions, are they reporting events, or are they feeding a frenzy? For my money, they should blow air into some balloons but should let others just deflate and fade away.

  3. “Racism found on bathroom stall walls”, this sounds like an Onion story. When will the board do their job and tell Dr. Horton to cool it on all of these white supremacy sightings and get back to academics? And people wonder why enrollment in District 65 is falling, right . . .

  4. Not to downplay the ugliness of such hateful symbol but written on the bathroom stall of a middle school—-seriously?—-I’m encouraged by reading four prior comments they pretty much feel the same way I do regarding this matter. In other words there’s a 13yo Sharpie Bandit roaming the halls at Nichols having a good laugh to himself by getting far more attention than he bargained for in reactions—-(police investigation???—-yes by all means and while we’re at it let’s call in Merrick Garland plus a few dozen agents to assist in the investigation) When I attended Nichols some fifty years ago, swastikas we’re tame in comparison to the rest of the bathroom stall graffiti offerings—-it’s what some middle school kids do and always will—-that doesn’t excuse such behavior and by some chance The Sharpie Bandit is caught, what is the proper punishment—prosecute as felony hate crime?—NO!…ruining an immature kids life is ridiculous. Give him a good hard history lesson with parents in attendance plus an assigned essay on the ugliness of such behavior—-throw in twenty hours of community service—-that’ll wake him up. Superintendent Horton however states such scribblings are “proof that antisemitism, racism and white supremacy are alive and well within our community”—-huh?—this is beginning to look like an onion article thanks to Horton. I’m not sure how much more of his failed leadership the city can endure? I for one am not buying it—-there’s no evidence anywhere that Evanston is a racist city with white supremacists lurking about—-in fact I’m insulted by the insinuation. Say what one will regarding the many challenges Evanston faces today as a city, but we should all take pride in knowing we’re a progressive city with absolutely zero tolerance for racism and white supremacy. Superintendent Horton uses such comments to push a divisive agenda for purposes of control and power—-and doing a good job of it since taking over as superintendent of D65 schools. The D65 school board should be ashamed and taken to task for extending Horton’s contract—-he’s worn out his welcome here with his brand of race baiting and segregative policies—-and as a leader he’s proven to be thin skinned by crying out “racism” whenever things don’t go his way. The recent issues at Haven school are further proof that Horton isn’t up to the task of being a good leader—-he’s done nothing but divide the community, harass and scare away good teachers and staff plus antagonize a whole lot of people. I say it’s best for the city to buy out Horton’s contract and fire him. The quality of our schools and kids futures are at stake here—-we can and should insist on far better!

    1. Thank you John for expressing what many people are feeling but have not articulated as well as you do above. Devin Horton can’t go soon enough. My kids are long out of D65, but I feel for my younger parent friends who pay the city’s very high taxes only to be saddled with a Board and Superintendent more focused on activism and faux virtue signaling than educational well-being.

  5. “there is no doubt that these are learned behaviors and clearly with well established roots.” says:

    When Horton speaks about these issues it sounds like Joseph McCarthy talking about secret communists living amongst us. He needs to stop. His intimating that kids are learning how to draw swastikas and tie nooses at home and that Evanston is a hotbed of KKK activity is performative and absurd. What he is doing is called fear mongering.
    Horton and the knee-jerk crowd need to look up what a Troll is and stop giving them oxygen.

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