Haven Middle School. Credit: Adina Keeling

According to a late Friday afternoon email from Superintendent Devon Horton to District 65 families, parents at Kingsley Elementary School reported finding three nooses hanging from trees in the area between Kingsley and Haven Middle School.

The nooses were accompanied by “notes in support of Haven educators,” Horton wrote in his message.

Earlier Friday afternoon, hundreds of Haven students staged a peaceful sit-in protesting involuntary teacher transfers to new schools. An anonymous staff member called the Evanston Police Department for support during the protest, and EPD told the RoundTable that no criminal activity was found at the time.

However, Horton said in his email that, when some students walked out of the school amid Friday’s demonstration, “Haven students were seen allegedly chanting and carrying ropes to the location where the nooses were found.”

“This is a hate crime and a deliberate and specific incidence of an outwardly racist act. It resounds with a tone of hate and hurt that will impact members of our entire community, namely Black and African American students, staff, and families who have experienced generations of harm,” Horton said in his email. “What began as a peaceful protest by students is now tainted with hate and is part of a string of racist actions that continue to be directed at district and school administrators.”

In a statement to the RoundTable, EPD Sgt. Ken Carter said that while at least one officer was in the area of Haven and Kingsley following the student protest, a teacher pointed out the nooses that were hanging in a tree between the two schools. In his email, though, Horton said Kingsley parents found the nooses.

“We’re not sure if this is related to the protest today. There is no indication that it is, but [the nooses were] pointed out to our officers,” Carter said. “Our department heads made contact with the school, and the principal of the school has been advised of the situation.”

EPD recovered the nooses, and an investigation into the incident is now ongoing, according to Carter. No injuries were reported, and police do not yet know who or what the nooses were directed toward, he said. Carter did not mention EPD finding any notes in support of Haven teachers near the nooses.

Horton also encouraged parents to discuss this incident with their children at home and directed them to the “Talking about Race” page on the District 65 website.

“Our district, board, administration, and community will continue to fight racism in all forms,” Horton wrote in the email. “Institutionalized racism has been used in the past to intimidate and discourage minority leaders from disrupting institutionalized racism. It’s important that we, as adults, model for our students how to have safe discourse when emotions are high.”

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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  1. Did Evanston Police take the nooses in as evidence? Have evidence photos been released yet?

  2. Dear RT-please provide an update on the investigation into this incident. What has EPD done to investigate or bring charges? Have they consulted with the Cook County DA and the FBI for possible federal hate crime charges? It’s been strangely quiet since Friday and the release of Dr. Horton’s letter. Please provide a status update.

  3. The saplings of the strange fruit trees are now maturing in Evanston, these saplings have been nurtured in the secret gardens of north Evanston for longer than anyone cares to remember by those who believe it is their duty to make sure the trees bare fruit. These saplings have been watered consistently by gardeners with water infused with the words, supremacy, oppression, hate, and racism. Planted in a soil of privilege and allowed to grow unchallenged under the watchful protection of a system that condones their growth without consequence.

    Friday, we saw these trees in full bloom, laced with nooses, the very symbol of hate and racism. Nooses which are synonymous with lynching, used strike fear in the hearts of Black people, and a preview that a lynching is about to take place (so white folks get ready to put on your Sunday best so you can pose for the picture).

    Nooses are a dog whistle, the quiet parts said out loud, the bat signal letting white folks know it’s time, and a warning to Black people to stay in their place. Nooses tell little white boys it’s okay to beat on a Black family’s door with a whip to beat their son. Nooses tell a white teenager that he can drive over 200 miles to commit mass murder in a store full of Black people because his “watering” included white supremacy and great replace theory, his tree has born fruit with a yield of 10 Black bodies. Nooses now tell middle school white boys that it’s almost time to harvest, it’s okay to say the quiet parts out loud.

    Evanston has always touted its diversity, but I call it “drive by diversity” a place where people can raise their kids to say, “I had black friends growing up…”, I wonder if the saplings have already grown out of that ruse.

  4. So, are my children crossing the Skokie Channel or the Ohio River?
    These “good” parts of Evanston that keep allowing people to feel comfortable enough to do these sorts of things.
    It really is more than just a District problem at this point.
    Because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

  5. I don’t believe there’s any connection at all between the student protest and the nooses. The Superintendent often tries to change the subject when his actions are met with legitimate opposition. He and the Board are after all the same people who have tried to sell involuntary transfer of senior (well liked and excellent) teachers at Haven – one to a third grade classroom – as justified because they didn’t have dual certification. Lots of people believe it was clearly retribution. And I’m not looking to buy the Brooklyn Bridge either.
    Mary Anne Wexler

  6. Kristine, I fully hope that this incident is passed to the federal level, as hate crimes should be.

    Whomever the source was, there is no one who does not want to see justice done.

    If it was children, I hope that we take the teachable moment to help them understand what civil discourse and protest should be; it’s hard to do that, though, when they see the cesspool that is the D65 parents and caregivers page on Facebook.

    If adults were involved, they should be prosecuted under federal law.

    I will say that it’s a sad day when we’re so exhausted by the gaslighting, opacity, and outright lies of the board and administration of D65 that we doubt the veracity of this incident. No one trusts anything that comes from them or their proxies.

    The nooses are abhorrent; I understand the collective trauma that this caused not only to African Americans but the wound that continuing incidents like this cause, especially in children. That said: conflating support of teachers with the horror of lynching is unacceptable; Horton continues to conflate support of teachers with racism, which is disingenuous at best and destructive at worst.

    1. Matt, I no longer have a child at Haven. My son is graduating from ETHS this month, so I’m no longer part of the parent Facebook groups, either at ETHS or Haven. I quit both groups because I found the toxicity. Just too much to handle. I’m going to be honest. My son is mixed race/Muslim and had a really rough start when he started at Haven including from a teachers who told me that “you can’t just take days off for your religion”, even when we were taking a day off because an uncle had died and we had to attend the funeral. This was actually one of the popular teachers that is being transferred. So you can see I’ve had on my chip on my shoulder ever since. I’ve also had children make fun of my son’s middle name, which is the name. He laughs along and jokes with it because he wants to have friends. He has met so many lovely kids at Haven and ETHS. However, there was is a core group of people that don’t want to lose control of their community. They want to have everything for their children and it doesn’t matter if other children have to suffer. And it’s come to the point of blatant racism. There were also fights for many years at Haven. This is nothing new. I just don’t think the parents the fact that they can’t control the narrative any longer, so they’re acting out like children. Really sad and disappointing.

    2. I trust the board and administration. I do not see Horton conflating of support of teachers with racism.

    3. Completely agree. We need the feds to investigate and get to the bottom of this. EPD is already stretched quite thin – short staffed and addressing gun violence.

  7. No comments on the Round Table from the white parents today. I guess they’ve gone too far. I hope the City and D65 considers charging them with hate crimes and punishing their children appropriately.