Haven Middle School, 2417 Prairie Ave.
Parents and organizers in Evanston are demanding more answers from local school officials and police in the northern suburb after three nooses were found on school grounds more than a week ago.
“We need transparency now,” Tyrone Muhammad, executive director of Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change, said during a news conference Monday. “ … How can children learn in an environment where they feel like their lives are in danger?”
Muhammad and more than a dozen men marched outside of Haven Middle School at 2417 Prairie Ave. in Evanston before the first bell rang.
He and others also called on Evanston Mayor Daniel Bliss to get involved with the investigation. In the wake of the shooting in Buffalo, he said, it is urgent that all levers of power take the nooses as an active threat toward Black students and staff, which includes high-ranking administrators.
“Nooses hung from a tree should be a state of emergency,” Muhammad said.
Earlier this month, a group of Haven Middle School students held a sit-in to protest several staffing changes. Students flooded the hallways and chanted while some gathered outside and left campus all together.
Sometime after the staged sit-in, several parents from nearby Kingsley Elementary School found three nooses hanging from a tree, according to a letter sent to parents from Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Supt. Devon Horton. Notes in support of the Haven educators being transferred to other schools were also left near the nooses, the letter said although it’s unclear where they 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.”
The letter said “Haven students were seen allegedly chanting and carrying ropes to the location where the nooses were found.”
A spokesman with the Evanston police confirmed there was an active investigation into the nooses that were found; however authorities previously said they were unsure if the nooses were connected to the student sit-in.
Melissa Messinger, a spokeswoman for the district, said in a statement Monday that “the actions that occurred that day are unacceptable on every level. This attack resounds with a tone of hate and hurt that has affected members of our entire community.”
Biss did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Ralph Edwards, whose son attends Haven Middle School, is outraged at the school district’s handling of the situation.
“I have to deal with my son showing me text messages right now to this day of hate speech,” Edwards said during the Monday news conference. “You know calling him a monkey, a Black ignorant boy, making suggestions that this is not that serious — that it could just be a joke.”
Parent Shaunique Shelton said her 7th grade son at Haven Middle School made a video call during protest which she said resembled a “riot” more than a peaceful sit in.
“They were chanting … slurs at the principal who is Black,” she said.
Shelton said she welcomed the demonstration on Monday to raise awareness but feels the school district can only do so much to resolve the issue.
“A 12-year-old or 13-year-old should not know how to tie a noose in 2022, it just doesn’t make sense,” Shelton said.