Content warning: This article contains profanity and mentions of symbolic hate speech.
Students at Haven Middle School participated in a sit-in Friday, which escalated into a large group temporarily gathering outside. The protest was organized order to protest upcoming staffing changes announced around Evanston/Skokie School District 65 earlier this month, District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton wrote in an email to district parents Friday afternoon.
In the email, Horton said the sit-in was “mostly peaceful,” but some students did leave the premises after gathering outside. In video footage obtained by The Daily, students crowded the hallways and stairwells of Haven and chanted before moving outside. Some called out in support of specific teachers who are set to be transferred.
“Save our teachers” and “F–k 65,” students chanted as they exited, some waving paper signs.
For the upcoming school year, at least seven Haven teachers — some of whom have taught at the school for decades — will be transferred to different district schools. The district also plans to reassign dozens of other teachers, switching the age level they teach or transferring them in or out of special education.
The district also plans to cut 22 teacher positions, but does not plan to fire any staff members, relying instead on an expected attrition of 52 staff members, according to the District 65 website.
After students who had gathered outside cleared the area, some parents at the nearby Kingsley Elementary School found nooses tied to trees between Haven and Kinglsey, Horton said in the email.
“This is a hate crime and a deliberate and specific incidence of an outwardly racist act,” Horton said in the email. “It results with a tone of hate and hurt that will impact members of our entire community, namely Black and African American students, staff, and families who have experienced generations of harm. What began as a peaceful protest by students is now tainted with hate and is part of a string of racist actions that continue to be directed at district and school administrators.”
The incident comes after recent physical altercations at Haven prompted parents, teachers and the Board of Education to discuss the need for restorative practices and de-escalation education.
At a town hall held at Haven on May 4, parents continued to express concern for the district’s response to disciplinary problems at Haven, as well as for the rate of scheduled transfers out of the school, the Evanston Roundtable reported.
The district is working to provide trauma-informed de-escalation training every quarterer for 80 or more staff members, Director of Special Services Anna Marie Candelario said at last week’s Curriculum and Policy Committee meeting.
Horton said Evanston Police Department officers are currently investigating Friday’s incident, and several resources, including anti-bias training for young children, are available on the District 65 website to provide support.
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