On Oct. 28, Max Weinberg, Principal of Lincolnwood Elementary School, sent an email to Lincolnwood families, saying, “For the past several weeks, I have debated sending a letter about our own need for a more peaceful Lincolnwood. I have been hesitant because I am well aware that Lincolnwood hosts many different viewpoints and experiences. I write not to blame or shame; I write to ask for your partnership and support. I must share that I am deeply concerned that a crucial portion of our student body, specifically our Black students, are being made to feel unwelcome. I cannot allow this.”
Mr. Weinberg said in the past several weeks, he learned about “hate-filled” language spoken by children in the school, specifically the following comments made by students:
- “I want to know why Black children come to this school.”
- “This isn’t your school.”
- Several instances of the N-word
- “You are dumb Black boys.”
“I want to make it clear that hatred is not welcome in our community. Our Black students will understand that they belong here; that, as a neighborhood school, our arms stretch to the edges of all of our boundaries,” said Mr. Weinberg. “I acknowledge that discomfort around race has also led to some shaming of white children, children of Asian descent, our Latinx children, and multiracial children. Meanness and misunderstanding stop through education, an expectation of excellence, and a welcoming spirit.”
On Oct. 29, students gathered in the auditorium for a “peace-building assembly.” Mr. Weinberg said the purpose of the assembly was not to speak in any detail of any tragedy or destructive behavior, but to discuss student’s rights, as named in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child to, “...have exactly the same right to be respected whether I am Black or white, small or big, rich or poor, born here or somewhere else’ and to “...be free from any kind of violence.”
“Monday's peace assembly was just the beginning of the critical work we want to do as a school to build a more peaceful community,” Mr. Weinberg told the RoundTable. “Following the peace circle, students returned to their classrooms where they participated in sharing circles to openly talk about building a more welcoming school where everyone is seen, heard, and understood.
“Dr. Goren and I were able to walk around and listen to children sharing their own experiences of being a student here and what sorts of outside experiences they bring to school with them.
“The unique design of Lincolnwood encourages us to embrace Black, White, Latinx, Asian, Multiracial, adoptive/transracial children from several different areas of Evanston and the strengths and experiences that they bring into our school.
“We will continue to have courageous conversations and remain open to listening to ensure that children are available to learn critical social and academic skills.”
“Principal Weinberg and all those committed to championing racial and educational equity have my full support,” Paul Goren, Superintendent of District 65 said in a prepared statement. “Hate has no home and will never be welcome in District 65. Every student and staff member, regardless of race, ethnicity, mental and physical ability status, gender identity, sexual identity, citizenship status, refugee status, and religion, is a valued member of our D65 family. We recognize that everyone may not always feel that way and for this reason we remain committed to our equity and anti-racism efforts and working to ensure all students and staff members can feel welcome, cared for, and safe in our schools.”
At the Joint District 65 and 202 School Board meeting on Oct. 29, Anya Tanyavutti, Vice-President of the District 65 School Board, said, “I commend Max Weinberg of Lincolnwood School, for his brave and bold choice to explicitly name and call out the racially harmful and racist language and behavior that was being witnessed in his work at Lincolnwood with children and families and for his work with educators, children and families to lead conversations to build an anti-racist dialogue to protect Black children and families from harm.”