Lincolnwood Elementary principal denounces racism at the school following Pittsburgh shooting


Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek

The Joseph E. Hill Education Center, 1500 McDaniel Ave. Lincolnwood Elementary School principal Max Weinberg sent a letter to the school community the day after the shooting at Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Copy Chief

The recent mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue has spawned conversations regarding the consequences of racism and hate speech.

After hearing about students making racist comments, Max Weinberg wants to make sure those conversations are happening at his school.

Weinberg, the principal at Lincolnwood Elementary School in northwest Evanston, sent a letter to the Lincolnwood community on Oct. 28, the day after the shooting at Tree of Life Congregation, regarding instances of racism at the school.

“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,” Weinberg said in the letter. “Over the past several weeks, I have learned about hate-filled language spoken by children in our school.”

Weinberg said he had heard reports of students saying things like “I want to know why black children come to this school” and “this isn’t your school,” as well as several uses of the N-word.

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, 56 percent of Lincolnwood’s 405 students are white, 23 percent are black, 10 percent Latinx and 3 percent Asian.

Anya Tanyavutti, vice president of the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education, told The Daily that Weinberg was prompted to send the letter to provide tools and information to correct any racist beliefs and misunderstandings that Lincolnwood students may have internalized.

“Our school district has taken on a brave and comprehensive undertaking to have courageous conversations about race,” Tanyavutti said. “I think sometimes folks are afraid to have conversations about race.”

Lincolnwood is located in Evanston’s 6th Ward, but children who live in the 7th, 5th and 2nd Wards also attend the school. The 6th Ward is less racially diverse than Evanston as a whole. As of the last U.S. Census, 10 percent of 6th Ward residents were people of color, compared to 40 percent for the city at large.

In the letter, Weinberg called for a “peace-building assembly” at Lincolnwood, which took place on Oct. 29. He asked parents to talk to their students about the assembly and about how they can make Lincolnwood a better place.

District 65 Superintendent Paul Goren expressed support for Weinberg and the letter in an interview to the Chicago Tribune. Goren also said an increased number of racist comments had also been heard at other schools around the district.

Tanyavutti said it was important to make sure that these instances of racism should not only not be tolerated, but should be condemned.

“I believe that it’s really important that we not only say that hate has no home here, that we not only say that we are not racist but that we say we are actually anti-racist,” Tanyavutti said. “We will create an affirmative environment that is… representative of everyone, including our black citizen families.”

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