Yesterday evening, Jan. 19, District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton sent a letter to the District 65 Community. That letter said, “On Monday, we hosted a special edition of our Conversations with the Superintendent video series in both English and Spanish that featured School Board leadership, President Anya Tanyavutti and Vice President Biz Lindsay-Ryan, and Devon Alexander, Manager of Equity, Diversity, and Family and Community Engagement. This discussion reflected on the mischaracterization of an email exchange between myself and a parent last week as reported in local publications and to discuss the language that was used, its historical context, and how we as a community can lean into critical inquiry and community connection when discomfort is experienced. This includes educating ourselves about language and words that trigger feelings and experiences of racism. We also discussed how white supremacy and racism go hand-in-hand and how we can all continue to grow and expand in awareness and understanding. This is the work we are committed to doing every day in 65.”
In the video conversation on Jan. 18, Dr. Horton said that the following language mischaracterized the email exchange between him and two parents:
“It thus seems that parents who argue that schools should be opened for in-person learning are being attacked as racists and White Supremacists because they allegedly fail to recognize that Black households are more likely to contract the COVID-19 virus than white households, and perhaps because they use strong language.”
This language appeared in an article posted in the Evanston RoundTable on Jan. 14. That article quoted opening remarks of Dr. Horton and Board President Anya Tanyavutti at a special Board meeting; it quoted two emails sent to Dr. Horton by District 65 parents; and it quoted Dr. Horton’s response. The article attempted to include everything in the two parent emails that could be construed as a negative comment about the District or Dr. Horton or a threat of any nature in order to provide context for Dr. Horton’s response. The article is available here.
The District’s video conversation is available here.
Dr. Horton’s Jan. 19 letter to the community continued:
“We know that there are struggles and confusion in understanding why schools are not open. As a reminder, an announcement about this will be coming tomorrow. To be very clear, we are not saying that anyone who wants schools open or advocates for their needs is a white supremacist. We are saying that the way some people are advocating is causing incredible harm and is rooted in white supremacy.
“As a community, we have to be able to have hard conversations and be willing to lean into discomfort if we are truly committed to achieving our goals of equity. We have to take our work to the next level. Healthy and authentic navigation of productive equity education will continue to be a focus for me in the midst of these challenging times. I ask that you make this commitment alongside me. Together, we can close the opportunity and achievement gaps that exist for our Black and Brown students.”