Nooses hung from trees at Evanston middle school amid student protest over teacher transfers

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- An investigation is underway after three nooses were found near a middle school in Evanston.

The nooses were found hours after students staged a sit-in to protest the school district's decision to transfer some teachers to different schools.

"I don't blame any of the Black kids who don't want to come back to this school because something needs to be done!" said Shaunique Shelton, parent of a 7th grader.

Cell phone from inside of Haven Middle School showed students flooding the hallways during 7th period Friday for what was supposed to be a peaceful protest.

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"Because the district is relocating some of our teachers that we all care about and love," 8th grader Miles Lyons said.

Shana Miles' 8th grade daughter video called her in the midst of the mayhem.

"She's showing me. She like, 'Mom, the police up here! Kids are running wild! Kids are running out the building,'" Miles said. "She's like, 'Can you please come get me? I'm scared!'"

Police said they responded to the school to bring calm, but were called back later by school staff. Not to calm crowds, parents say, but for something much worse.
In the midst of the protest, three nooses were hung on the tree above a memorial for a teacher. Parents believe the act is sending a clear and hateful message to the administration at the school.

"To my knowledge, those three nooses represent our Black administration," Shelton said. "So, we have a Black principal, a Black assistant principal who's a male, and a Black assistant principal that's a woman."

District 65 Superintendent Dr. Devon Horton sent a letter to parents, writing, in part: "This is a hate crime and a deliberate and specific incidence of an outwardly racist act. It resounds with a tone of hate and hurt that will impact members of our entire community."

"That's the terrifying part, right?" District 65 parent Sara Carlson said. "These children are in middle school, and they're not seeing consequences for actions."

"With all the screaming, banging, yelling and then this!" Lyons said. "It definitely took away from the peaceful protest aspect of it all."

FULL LETTER FROM DISTRICT 65 SUPERINTENDENT DR. DEVON HORTON

Dear District 65 Community -

I wanted to take this opportunity to alert you of a situation that occurred earlier today. By now you may have heard that a group of Haven Middle School students staged a sit-in as a way to peacefully protest district-wide staffing changes that were announced in late April.

While the afternoon remained mostly peaceful, the situation did escalate with a large group of Haven students temporarily gathering outside and several leaving campus. After some time, school and district administrators were able to de-escalate the situation and calmly finish out the school day. We know our Haven students, as well as staff, are feeling a range of emotions as a result. The Haven team, with support from the district, is putting a plan in place to provide opportunities to debrief and provide support and healing on Monday.

Unfortunately, this incident took an upsetting turn this afternoon. Kingsley parents who were at the school reported finding three nooses hanging from trees in between Haven and Kingsley Elementary along with notes in support of Haven educators. District administrators and the Evanston Police Department were contacted. It was further reported that Haven students were seen allegedly chanting and carrying ropes to the location where the nooses were found. Evanston Police Officers are currently investigating the incident.

This is a hate crime and a deliberate and specific incidence of an outwardly racist act. It resounds 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.

When these situations occur, it further distances students, staff, and families from feeling like a part of their school community, from feeling safe at school, and feeling safe in the community at large. For this reason, we remain committed to our equity and anti-racism efforts. We are working with our mental health team to ensure opportunities will be available across the district on Monday to help any students who may need support in unpacking their emotions and feelings.

Our district, board, administration, and community will continue to fight racism in all forms. Institutionalized racism has been used in the past to intimidate and discourage minority leaders from disrupting institutionalized racism. It's important that we, as adults, model for our students how to have safe discourse when emotions are high.

We recognize that conversations about race at home and in the community are not easy for some to have but in order to be proactive and to prevent this type of behavior they are essential. Several resources are available on the District 65 website to provide support.

While I recognize this is upsetting news to begin your weekend, we wanted to be transparent about the incidents that occured today as we know they will be discussed and will have an impact on our community. Thank you for your continued support.

Unapologetically,
Dr. Devon Horton (he/him)
Superintendent
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