By Melissa Renee Perry
On Monday, the District 65 school board meeting was packed as around 100 attendees filled the room at the Joseph E. Hill Early Childhood Center to voice concerns related to three nooses being hung up between Kingsley and Haven Middle School on May 13th. Many of those who spoke, both students and parents, shared their personal experiences of dealing with racism in the district and stressed the need for those who committed the crime to be held accountable.
Before opening the floor up to public comment, several board members condemned the hanging of the nooses and voiced concerns related to the dismissal and disrespect of Black leaders on the school board.
Superintendent Dr. Devon Horton called this year one of his most challenging school years yet, but assured attendees that the school district is working toward addressing the issue.
“It’s going to be addressed,” he said of the investigation. “We want to make sure that we cross all of our t’s and dot our i’s.”
Board member Elizabeth “Biz” Lindsey-Ryan, said that she was speaking directly to white members of the community as she displayed and broke down a visual called “the building blocks of white supremacy in District 65” that started with a Black leader being selected and ultimately escalated to nooses, physical threats, and violence.
“We are screwing it up friends,” she said. “We keep thinking that we can accidentally create an inclusive community and that we won’t have to give anything up to do so.”
“I am here to demand that the individual responsible for hanging the three nooses on the property is held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” she said. “This was a hate crime. Let’s not sweep it under the rug.”
NAACP Evanston President Dr. Rev. Michael Nabors also spoke during public comment. He condemned the racist act and directly expressed support for Dr. Horton, who has been the recipient of harsh parental backlash and even death threats.
”You got tremendous support, you should also know that means that there’s a high level of expectation that we are going to have because of the level of support that you got,” he said to Dr. Horton.
One of the most passionate and well-received speakers of the night was 14-year-old ETHS student Olivia Ohlson. She received a standing ovation as she spoke of the importance of putting the needs of District 65 students first, above all else.
“The mission of D65 is not every parent, every day, whatever it takes,” she said. “It is every child, every day, whatever it takes.”