Editors’ note: The following letter from Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton was sent out Thursday, June 2, in a districtwide email to families and posted as a new release on the district website after the Nichols Middle School graduation. Horton, who addressed the graduation via a recorded video, made no mention of this during his remarks.
Dear District 65 Community,
I am writing this evening regarding a situation that occurred at Nichols Middle School. Earlier today, a staff member reported finding swastikas along with racist and hurtful messages written on stalls in two bathrooms. Upon learning of this, school administrators immediately contacted district leaders. Further, both restrooms were closed for student and staff use. We take this outward and intentional act of hate extremely seriously and the Evanston Police Department was contacted to support the investigation.
Our community is still reeling from the hateful act of nooses being hung outside of Haven and Kingsley schools only a few short weeks ago. And now, to find swastikas, a symbol of terror and hatred toward the Jewish community, we are reminded once again that antisemitism, racism, and white supremacy are alive and well within our community. The continued prevalence of these hate symbols consistently, and without fail, cause harm to our most marginalized communities – creating further division and distance. There is no doubt that these are learned behaviors and clearly with well-established roots.
We are currently working with our mental health team to ensure opportunities will be available both at Nichols and across the district to help any students who may need support in processing this situation. In addition, the Nichols team, with support from the district, is working to coordinate a learning opportunity for students and an opportunity for reflection, ongoing dialogue, and action.
These incidents have a long lasting effect on our students, staff, and families. As a community, we cannot allow this type of harm to continue without repercussion and repair. This is another real example of our “why”. The reason why we are so deeply committed as an organization to the work that we do – to dismantle institutional racism, combat bias, disrupt the status quo – all in an effort to truly foster a sense of belonging, welcomeness, and physical and emotional safety within our schools. Our students deserve nothing less.
These incidents put us further from our goals and show us just how much work we have to do to truly realize our commitments to racial and educational equity and justice. Today should be a celebration for Nichols and our middle school communities as they honor their eighth grade graduates. And, while there is so much we do have to celebrate today and as we close out our school year, it’s important that we continue to bring these incidents to light, name these hateful acts as they occur, and create opportunities for healing and repair so that we can truly stand together as a community.
Thank you for your continued support.
Dr. Devon Horton (he/him)