Haven Middle School teachers and parents advocate for de-escalation training


Ilana Arougheti/Daily Senior Staffer

Haven parent Lee Ann Silva raises a sign during Monday’s Board of Education meeting. She and others spoke during public comment to ask district leaders to implement measures for staff and student safety.

Olivia Alexander, In Focus Editor

Following recent physical altercations at Haven Middle School, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 teachers and parents filled Monday night’s school board meeting to call for more widespread de-escalation training and restorative practices.  

Many of those in attendance raised signs with messages such as “The teachers and staff of District 65 deserve respect” and “Trust the teachers and staff of D65.” 

During public comment, Haven music teacher Amber Evey-Schmidt described an altercation that took place in the school last week. She said she heard a commotion outside her classroom and stepped into the hallway to assess the situation. 

Evey-Schmidt said she was forcibly knocked down by a student, who she said she believed had no intention to harm her. 

“If we all truly care about our District 65 community, and I do believe we all care, then we need to show that by trusting that we all want what is best for our students and diligently working together to provide the support our young students need to be able to thrive,” she said. 

Haven parent Lee Ann Silva said on the day Evey-Schmidt was knocked over in the hall, her seventh grade son came home with an asthma panic attack. He hasn’t had an asthma attack in five years, she said. 

“We need to get a hold on the violence immediately,” Silva said. “This can only truly be done correctly when sufficient supports are in place.”

Silva urged the district to hire more hall monitors and train more staff in de-escalation and violence prevention techniques. She also said the schools should have more mental health practitioners trained in restorative practices. 

Silva said these concerns of violence are likely not unique to Haven. According to her, parents with students at other schools are concerned their schools will also experience incidents of violence. 

Marlon Millner, the parent of two Haven students, said both his late mother and father taught in public schools. Both students and educators deserve to be safe, he said, and not patronized, ostracized or criticized. Creating a safe space means reducing the potential for physical harm to students and staff alike, he said. 

“I and my children expect nothing less than an environment free from violence and filled with mutual respect. For staff for students, students for staff,” Millner said. “You will prove capable of achieving this not by what you say, but by what you do. Stop the lectures and lead with concrete actions.” 

In her opening comments, outgoing board president Anya Tanyavutti said the board is aware of the culture and climate concerns at Haven. She said the board has prioritized making Haven a safe place for all students by adding hall monitors and an additional assistant principal as well as more guidance counselors and school psychologists. 

As parents and teachers talked over her comments, Tanyavutti said she appreciated their “modeling of conduct.” 

It is important that the board acknowledges the years of struggle with violence at Haven and across the district, she said. Unfortunately, Tanyavutti said, the District 65 community has seen violence, and it is inaccurate to say the board has normalized it. 

“We as a District 65 board share in concern for safety at Haven, as physical and emotional safety are a top priority given that (they are) foundational to the ability to learn,” Tanyavutti said. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @oliviagalex

Related Stories:

District 65 Academic Skills Centers improve grade level standards attainment, aim to expand

District 65 talks academic growth with new accelerated math curriculum

District 65 board approves plan to establish 5th Ward school