A group of concerned educators, parents and students at a suburban high school are expressing their concerns and demanding action amid allegations of racial discrimination.
Niles Township High School District 219 serves nearly 5,000 students in Skokie, Lincolnwood and Niles. On Tuesday evening, a group of parents, teachers, community leaders and students voiced their concerns over what they call racist practices in the district.
“At every single level, there has been a contention that there has been discrimination and bias that has been practiced against these individuals,” NAACP Evanston/North Shore President Dr. Michael Nabors said.
Students who were present for the event say that they’ve had to face racial discrimination in a variety of ways, including in their interactions with other students and even in interactions with police and security at the school.
“(I’ve had) non-Black students through around the n-word as if it’s slang,” Makayla Sutton, a junior at Niles North, said. “Security and teachers pay closer attention to Black students and are quick to single us out.”
Students say that for the past several years, a disproportionate number of incidents involving security also end up involving Black or Hispanic students. Londyn LaVallias, 16, says that she got into a fight at Niles West with a student that attacked her.
“I ended up in court because I was defending myself,” she said. “At the time, I was confused. I felt like my dean didn’t know me as a person. I know the school-to-prison pipeline, and I will never be a part of that system.”
Teachers and parents say the student body in the school district is growing more diverse, but they allege the administration and board have refused to adjust, including in their hiring practices.
“Where my daughter went to school, there was not one Black teacher,” Jasmine Sebaggala, a mother whose daughter is a freshman in the district, said.
The parents, teachers and students who gathered Tuesday are calling for a sustainable equity plan, one that makes the kids feel safe and addresses the issues that they say are present in the district.
Having so many people sharing their views and pushing for change made the students in attendance feel hopeful that a solution is within reach.
“Tonight, I’m feeling courageous,” Sevaggala said.