An Evanston Township High School parent, Dawn Mitchell Hill, told the District 202 School Board at its March 18 meeting that her son Demonte Hill had been barred from playing basketball because of his hairstyle.

Ms. Hill said Coach Mike Ellis had told her son he had to “cut off his dreadlocks” and when Demonte refused, Coach Ellis “benched” him. She said that this had been an ongoing issue since the fall of 2011, when she and her family returned to Evanston after living in Skokie for a couple of years, during which time she said Demonte played basketball for the Niles West team.

Ms. Hill said that there had been numerous meetings with school officials on this matter and that Coach Ellis’s position had been supported by Athletic Director Chris Livatino and Assistant Superintendent/Principal Oscar Hawthorne.

Demonte, a senior, “has missed an opportunity to get a scholarship because of limited playing time,” according to his mother. She said that “his grades had dropped dramatically” because of the stress he experienced as a result of the “racial discrimination” associated with the demand to cut his dreadlocks.

ETHS Superintendent Dr. Eric Witherspoon told the RoundTable, “Contrary to recent assertions, ETHS has not been ‘charged with discrimination.’  To the contrary, the Office of Civil Rights dismissed as baseless a March 2, 2012, complaint, filed on behalf of one student, alleging that the District’s athletic policies were discriminatory.  The District is confident that a second, unrelated claim recently filed by the same student will also be dismissed by the Office of Civil Rights.”