From left: District 65 school board President Sergio Hernandez, Superintendent Devon Horton, school board member Biz Lindsay-Ryan and school board member Tracy Olasimbo at Monday’s Curriculum and Policy Committee meeting. Credit: Duncan Agnew / Evanston RoundTable

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 only handed out one student suspension through Oct. 31 of the new school year, compared with 17 suspensions during the same period last year, officials announced at a Curriculum and Policy Committee meeting Monday.

Administrators attributed the significant decline to “increased implementation of restorative practices across the district,” according to a presentation to school board members on the committee from Director of Research, Accountability and Data Simone Griffin.

But teachers in the district logged over 2,700 overall discipline referrals this fall, up from nearly 1,600 referrals across all schools a year ago. Most of those referrals are what the district defines as Level 1 or Level 2 violations, which refer to smaller classroom infractions like a student being out of their seat or disrupting learning.

“We have a lot more of the Level 1s, 2s and 3s, but this is where our teachers are chiming in and providing the supports that [students] need, and communicating much more effectively with restorative practices and what they’ve learned around that culturally relevant pedagogy to support those students in those areas,” Griffin said.

Black students are still overrepresented among the students receiving discipline referrals from teachers, though, with Black students getting the most referrals among any racial group in District 65 both in fall 2021 and in fall 2022. As of the 2021-2022 academic year, 23.3% of the district’s students were Black, while 41.1% were white and 21.2% were Hispanic, according to Illinois State Board of Education data.

Pointing out those racial disparities in behavior referrals, school board member Biz Lindsay-Ryan asked district administrators if they had any ideas for meeting with educators who may be making an abnormally high number of referrals.

“If you’re seeing an educator with a lot of those Level 1, Level 2s, especially when it’s the same student, how are we going in and supporting that educator, and also providing the professional learning and the resources for that Tier 1 classroom management?” asked Director of Multi-Tiered System of Support and Social Emotional Learning Donna Cross.

Last year, the RoundTable reported that very few educators in the district were trained in crisis prevention and restorative practices, which administrators said was due to the pandemic. At Monday’s committee meeting, Griffin showed data that just 28 teachers and staff across District 65 were trained in crisis prevention and intervention during the 2021-22 year.

So far this fall, though, the district has trained another 82 staff members in crisis prevention and intervention, according to Griffin’s presentation. Meanwhile, 106 staff members across the district have received Beyond Diversity training this year, as well.

Griffin, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Angel Turner and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Stacy Beardsley also said they and their teams have visited school buildings regularly so far this year to build closer relationships with principals and assistant principals. With those stronger connections, the district is hoping it can tackle behavioral incidents or other issues at certain schools more quickly and effectively, Turner said.

“It’s a collective effort from all of us. I would argue it’s very intentional, targeted support that we’re providing,” Turner said. “We’re holding ourselves accountable, and we’re holding our school leaders accountable for providing that level of support.”

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. My son was in a classroom accident the other day, where the kids at his table were screwing around with scissors and the result was he needed to get five stitches.

    I wonder if this program, instead of having the intended effect, has just resulted in teachers being unwilling to participate in a “discipline referral” that results in paperwork and a conversation with administrators. When I was a kid, if you screwed around, you got sent to the office and they dealt with the issue. Sounds like now, you get call from D65 HQ asking for justification…

    1. I’m really sorry to hear about this incident. Tom, would you consider running for school board? I think you’d have a lot to offer.