In the past weeks and months, you may have heard reports about hateful, racist, and sometimes violent language used by some students in District 65. These comments have ranged from students saying, “I will not play with you because of the color of your skin;” to students using derogatory and violent language towards Black students such as calling fellow students the N-word, or “chimpanzee” or “monkey”; to students telling Latinx students that “a wall will soon go up and you will have to return to your home.”

These specific incidences of outwardly racist comments directed towards Black, Latinx, and multiracial students resound with a tone of hate and hurt. While our commitment to racial and educational equity is widely known, I would like to take this opportunity to, once again, state that hate has no home and will never be welcome in District 65.

This harmful language is not unique to just one or two schools, as it occurs not only in the district but across our communities, negatively impacting people of color for too long. When these situations occur, it further distances students 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 expect all educators, administrators, and support staff to intervene whenever situations occur that have the potential to cause physical or emotional harm. Specific steps are followed which include fact-finding to better understand the situation and engaging school improvement and climate teams in determining the appropriate interventions. Classroom teachers are encouraged to convene sharing circles with their students to discuss what occurred and to unpack emotions and feelings. Our team continues to provide guidance and resources which includes encouraging the use of the tools from our Courageous Conversations trainings to navigate issues of race among our students. In addition, we remain committed to restorative justice practices, in many cases, bringing together a circle of parents, family members, and educators to discuss candidly what transpired and how we might move forward in a constructive and peaceful manner.

We recognize that conversations about race at home and in the community are not easy to have but in order to be proactive and to prevent this type of behavior they are essential. Several resources are included at the close of this email to help facilitate these conversations.

Given the rise of these sorts of racialized and hateful events occurring in our schools, in our parks and playgrounds, and across our communities in the new year we will convene several community-based restorative justice sharing circles to discuss what we can do in D65 and what the communities of Evanston and Skokie can do to be proactive in a way that stops these events from happening. We will send out details on these efforts in the new year.

Regardless of our different backgrounds and lived experiences, what matters most is that we treat one another with kindness, compassion, and respect. Anything less is not acceptable. We will maintain our commitment to equity learning and we will work tirelessly to foster a sense of belonging and safety for every member of our community.

With kind regards,

Paul Goren

Superintendent of Schools

Evanston/Skokie School District 65

Resources for Courageous Conversations

How to Talk to Your Kids About Race

5 Tips for Talking About Racism with Kids

They’re Not Too Young to Talk About Race

Why White Parents Need to Do More Than Talk to Their Kids About Racism

How to Talk to Your Kids About Race (video)

Sometimes You’re a Caterpillar and Sometimes You’re a Snail (video)