Before the National Anthem at Evanston Township High School’s varsity football game against New Trier on Sept. 28, Superintendent Eric Witherspoon read a statement that combined many students’ thoughts with his own.
“At Evanston Township High School, we are a family of learners, people of all races and of many cultures, languages and traditions, who support social and racial justice,” Dr. Witherspoon said. “We strive daily to create a safe environment at our school and communicate our anti-racist beliefs and democratic principles where we embrace the ideals of justice and equity for all.
“Recently, we have seen an overwhelming amount of Americans taking a stance on racial injustices happening throughout our country. Many Americans have used their platform to bring the conversation on race in America to the forefront. While many have confronted these issues, it is critical that we continue the conversation. We must work as a community to combat systems of oppression aimed at our Black, Latino, Muslim, Refugee, Immigrant, and LGBTQ+ communities. America was founded on the ideals that promise life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to everyone. It is imperative that we work to make sure that promise is fulfilled. We must continue to fight for equality. We must continue to love. We must continue to speak out on injustices wherever they exist.
“Tonight, we ask you to join us and our entire ETHS family as we reflect on and support those and their loved ones who have been discriminated against and victimized by micro-aggressions, hate speech, violence, bigotry, racism or any other forms of profiling, stereotyping or hatred. Please, together, let’s pause for a moment of silence.”
During Dr. Witherspoon’s statement and the moment of silence, all football players, cheerleaders, and members of the band knelt on one knee.
“Thank you,” continued Dr. Witherspoon after the moment of silence. “And now, would you please stand for our National Anthem.”
Many students stood, but some remained on one knee.
Dr. Witherspoon read the same statement before the girls volleyball game on Sept. 28, during which the volleyball team knelt on one knee. Most of the players remained on one knee during the National Anthem.
In a letter to ETHS students, families and staff that evening, Dr. Witherspoon said, “Students of Evanston Township High School have the right of free expression and association and the privacy of one’s own thoughts and opinions. If a student chooses to remain seated or kneel during the National Anthem, our existing practice allows students to express their First Amendment right to free speech so long as it does not significantly disrupt the learning environment.”