D65 board members condemn White supremacy at special board meeting

The+Evanston%2F+Skokie+School+District+65+Education+Center%2C+at+1500+McDaniel+Avenue.+D65+vice+president+Elisabeth+%E2%80%9CBiz%E2%80%9D+Lindsay-Ryan%E2%80%99s+car+was+ransacked+in+an+escalation+of+racist+threats+against+board+members.+

Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek

The Evanston/ Skokie School District 65 Education Center, at 1500 McDaniel Avenue. D65 vice president Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan’s car was ransacked in an escalation of racist threats against board members.

Christina Van Waasbergen, Reporter

Less than a week after a person ransacked Evanston/Skokie School District 65 vice president Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan’s car and left behind a card containing a homophobic slur, the board held a special online meeting Thursday to discuss recent attacks against members.

“While I was the target of the recent escalation, it’s imperative that we not center my White experience but see it as a part of a larger narrative and a concerning pattern that’s been escalating,” Lindsay-Ryan said.

After members made statements condemning White supremacy and bigotry on the meeting’s livestream, the board held a closed session to discuss security procedures and district safety.

Superintendent Devon Horton said the board sees a link between recent hate attacks and district leadership’s pursuit of anti-racist policies.

“Our school board has courageously been public about the inequities that exist in Evanston, as well as nationally, around police brutality, health gaps and other racially-driven issues, including homophobic acts that continue to hurt individuals on this board, in this society and in our country,” Horton said. “As a result, our board members and administrators get attacked through emails and postcards with death threats.”

Horton said community members have sent messages pressuring the board to deem teachers and school staff “essential workers” and return to in-person instruction.

The messages, Horton said, display “blatant privilege” — but he said when he and other school officials challenge this privilege, they are met with Freedom of Information Act requests and Office for Civil Rights complaints.

Reading from a statement the board issued in response to the attacks, D65 Board President Anya Tanyavutti said the attacks began in August 2020 and recently escalated to “veiled death threats.”

“Our stakeholders have every right to voice their frustration and share their disappointment about where a lack of federal leadership and clear guidance on opening schools has left every district to fend for themselves,” the statement said. “However, there is a difference between asking questions and insulting the intelligence, character and motives of the person in which you are asking the question.”

Tanyavutti said the attacks aren’t coming from a majority of the D65 community, but rather from “a loud and vocal and mal-intended small group.” However, she called upon the entire community to stand for justice in the face of White supremacy.

Horton said the attacks won’t deter the district from pursuing anti-racist policies.

“I want to be clear about our efforts to fight the pandemic of racism that has taken just as many lives as COVID-19,” Horton said. “We will not stop. We will continue to provide equity training for our staff. We will continue to diversify our workforce. We will continue to build an anti-racist curriculum. We will continue to build learning environments where all students can thrive and be their authentic selves.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @cvanwaasbergen

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