The District 65 School Board will hold a special closed-session meeting on Jan. 14 to discuss the safety and security of School Board members in the wake of the ransacking of the car of Board Vice-President Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan.
Ms. Lindsay-Ryan, who is gay, said her car and personal belongings were ransacked and a message with “homophobic hate language was prominently displayed. She said nothing was stolen and the intent was “to terrorize,” calling it a “result of white supremacy colluding with misogyny.”
Ms. Lindsay-Ryan and Ms. Tanyavutti sent a letter to the District 65 community that they said “offers important context for this occurrence.”
The letter said the attack on Ms. Lindsay-Ryan and the attack on Fifth Ward Aldermanic candidate Carolyn Murray during a Zoom interview with the Democratic Party of Evanston “were only the latest in a series of attempts to intimidate, malign with false rumors, and derail a committed group of leaders in working to right decades of wrong.
“In District 65, these attacks have only intensified with notable significance with leaders of color at the helm – continued assaults on their character, demands for credentials, and attempts to diminish not only their power but who they are as human beings. These attacks are utterly unacceptable and continue to be directed at those who are committed to achieving our goals of equity, to improve opportunities and outcomes for those who have experienced the greatest amount of harm by our institutions, and to remove the systemic barriers that have been created to uphold white supremacy.
“As leaders, in the past six months alone, we have each experienced, in different yet very personal ways, the workings of white supremacy. The way that it is weaponized against our Black leaders and any of us that are committed to prioritizing the needs of Black and Brown children. This weaponization has manifested in persistent threatening messaging, recently escalating to veiled death threats, since August 2020 to our board members and district administrators. There seem to be no limits or boundaries to what those who oppose equity are willing to do when and if they feel challenged.
“Violent situations fueled by white supremacist rage and anxiety that might have felt far away, such as last week’s attack by insurrectionists of the U.S. Capitol Building, continue to hit closer to home. It seems easy to denounce outside actors when they engage in racism, misogyny, and homophobia. And, yet we have a harder time seeing how it shows up in ourselves and in our community. We ask our community to condemn acts of violence and hate as easily as when they occur someplace else.
“These mindsets are so much a part of our culture and embedded into our daily lives that it would be naive to believe these ways of operating can only exist outside of our community. In fact we see these very same patterns of behavior and type of harassment in emails received by Board Members and Administrators.
“Our stakeholders have every right to voice their frustration and share their disappointment about where a lack of federal leadership and clear guidance on opening schools has left every district to fend for themselves. However, there is a difference between asking questions and insulting the intelligence, character, and motives of the person in which you are asking the question. There is a difference between critiquing a decision and declaring the decider uninformed, uncaring, or operating with a malicious intent because based on the information and context that they have available, they came to a different decision.
“We must channel our feelings of sadness, outrage, and grief into continuing our meaningful work. In the coming months we will celebrate both Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action and LGBTQ+ Equity Week. These are important ways that we can come together as a community and affirm the lives of Black and LGBTQ+ students, staff, and families. These are ways in which we can all play an active part in concretely demonstrating how our commitment to equity is translated to change in our classrooms and community. As we work to achieve our mission of helping our students to become active global citizens, we ask for your continued support and partnership.
“In District 65, we will remain steadfast to our commitments around racial and educational equity and will not waiver in our pursuit to achieve our goals. We will continue to provide robust equity training for our staff, efforts to further diversify our workforce, build our culturally relevant and anti-racist curriculum, and an environment where all students and staff members can thrive and be their authentic selves.
“As we approach next week’s birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. we must not just remember his words as a celebration of his life but use them as they were intended – to issue a continued call-to-action to provide equitable outcomes for all students and to fight the racial and social injustices that plague our community.”
The letter ends with a quote from Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” in which he criticizes white leaders of faith for their slowness and “moderation” in fighting for civil rights.
In a joint letter to the community, Ms. Tanyavutti and Ms. Lindsay-Ryan wrote, “We remain steadfast, but our safety is dependent on our collective responsibility to resist the alluring nature of white supremacy and stand together for justice, care, and protection of our entire community, especially those most vulnerable. The D65 Board of Education will convene on Thursday to recess into closed session and discuss our safety and security.”
Hate Crime Targets School Board Member
District 65 School Board member Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan posted on the District’s website that over the weekend she was the victim of a hate crime. Ms. Lindsay-Ryan, who is gay, wrote in a post on the District’s website she wrote, “The motive of the perpetrator was clear – my car and personal belongings ransacked along with a message of homophobic hate language prominently displayed. There was nothing stolen – this wasn’t a burglary. It was the intent to terrorize.” She added it was “both heartbreaking and terrifying for my family.”
She wrote the attack was “a result of white supremacy colluding with misogyny and homophobia to inflict the most harm possible.” She also wrote that she believed the attack was “part of a greater collaboration to derail my commitment to racial equity.”
Ms. Lindsay-Ryan compared the attack on her to the recent Zoom attack on Carolyn Murray. Both women are candidates in the upcoming General Election, Ms. Murray for Fifth Ward Alderman, and Ms. Lindsay-Ryan for re-election to the District 65 School Board.