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A fight among students at Haven Middle School on Thursday morning caused a soft lockdown at the building and sent a female teacher to the hospital for injuries sustained while attempting to break up the altercation, multiple sources told the Evanston RoundTable.
According to a Thursday afternoon email to Haven families from Principal Chris Latting, the injured teacher was treated and transported to a local hospital by Evanston paramedics. Additionally, Evanston Police Department officers arrived to assess the situation and escorted “another individual” from the building, Latting wrote. His email did not specify if the person escorted from Haven by EPD was a student or staff member.
“I would like to stress that no weapons were involved in the altercation,” Latting wrote. “Assistant Superintendent of Schools Terrance Little joined the assistant principals and me to assist in the situation. Through our collaboration, we were able to redirect the problem and restore a sense of normalcy by midday.”
During a soft lockdown, classes continue as usual but no one may enter or exit the school building. Latting said in his email that the injured teacher was released from the hospital shortly after noon on Thursday. Latting did not immediately respond to an email requesting further information.
Evanston Fire Department Deputy Chief William Muno confirmed to the RoundTable that an “adult patient” was treated at Haven and transported to the hospital by EFD officials. EPD Commander Ryan Glew said the Police and Fire departments initially responded to the scene at Haven after the female teacher “was knocked over by the participants of the altercation,” but students were not intentionally targeting that teacher, according to Glew.
However, the Police and Fire departments were dispatched to Haven a second time, at 11:50 a.m. Thursday, to attend to a male student with a possible medical issue, Glew said.
“Another male student interfered with the efforts of EFD and EPD,” Glew told the RoundTable in an email Thursday afternoon. “The interfering student was transported from Haven to EPD. Charges against the transported student are pending further investigation.”
District 65 School Board President Anya Tanyavutti and Superintendent Devon Horton did not respond to requests from the RoundTable for comment on the fight at Haven and any possible ongoing safety concerns.
As the RoundTable previously reported, one of the new goals for the district included in Horton’s contract extension is to reduce the number of students experiencing bullying by 2% each year. The district currently has 7,181 students, so 2% comes out to about 143 fewer students experiencing bullying each year.
A mother of two Haven students said the fight broke out in the arts wing of the building before spilling into the hallway and the bathroom, with dozens of students allegedly taking part or watching the physical confrontation. The mother, who asked to remain anonymous, said her son has never felt unsafe at Haven, but he asked her to pick him up in the middle of the day Thursday because of the violence that erupted at the school.
“If you don’t feel safe there [at school], that’s a whole different pressure, if you’re in your own school and you’re like ‘OK, I don’t want to be here,'” the mother said. “That’s my biggest concern right now. I don’t care if my kids don’t learn math the rest of the year. I do care if my kid doesn’t feel safe going to his school the rest of the year.”
A pattern of violence?
Thursday’s incident also marked the second time in just over a week that a staff member at Haven needed an ambulance due to injuries sustained while trying to de-escalate a fight between students.
Jayson Lim, one of eight hallway monitors at Haven who act as safety officers, told the RoundTable this week that a student punched him March 30 when he tried to stop a fight during indoor recess.
Lim said on Tuesday, April 5 that he was still having trouble opening his left jaw, and he had a lump on his head. He was initially even concerned about suffering brain damage because earlier in his life he had a cranial lobectomy, a type of brain surgery that removes part of the temporal lobe to treat epilepsy. He said the lobectomy left him with a preexisting condition that makes his head vulnerable to damage from any physical blow.
In a March 30 email alerting parents and families of Haven students about the incident, Latting said Lim “intervened and fell, requiring medical attention.”
“I did not fall. The student punched me,” Lim told the RoundTable. “It took me to the ground. It really shook me.”
Lim and other teachers and parents have said that several staff members have gotten hit or injured while breaking up fights at Haven in recent months.
“I was very disturbed by things I saw there on a daily basis,” said Mike Klotz, a former Haven special education teacher. “So disturbed I eventually reported multiple concerns to the school board liaisons of Haven and to upper admin, all the way to the top. I reported on the escalating violence, the lack of restorative practices, the lack of basic safety drills, and the less than truthful communications to parents regarding violent incidents. My complaints were not greeted warmly.”
Klotz left Haven in February to teach at a charter school in Chicago.
“The children of Haven deserve less trauma, less finger-pointing, some empathy, more ownership, and more results from those in charge,” Klotz said. “It’s time the admins at both the building and at JEH [Joseph E. Hill, the district headquarters] listen to the very knowledgeable staff on how to improve these matters before something unequivocally unpleasant in Pleasantville happens.”
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