Hate has no home here, or does it? D219 BSU’s take a stand


Taken by Kyla Henderson

Black students at D219 demand change at board meeting.

On December 6, Niles North and West’s Black Student Unions (BSU) came together to attend the D219 Board of Education meeting. At this meeting, Black students stood in front of the Board to discuss recent racial issues that have occurred within each school. It was a very emotional and vulnerable moment for these students, who shared stories of racist acts they encountered from other students, teachers, and staff in the building. 

Black students are tired of constantly fighting for their equity, and continuously being ignored. Recently, D219 has adopted the phrase “Hate has no home here” as a motto displayed in each of its schools. However, many Black students who attend these schools feel as though this phrase is not being lived up to. This phrase is written down on almost every corner of D219 schools, it’s supposed to help students, staff, and parents feel assured that equity is being practiced throughout the school. However, at this board meeting, many stood up and expressed how they feel D219 schools are not living up to their motto.

Niles West student Cherie Animashaun shares ideas for policies to decrease antiblack hate speech.

Students believe that there could be solutions to some of these problems that have arisen; however instead they are being overlooked, blatantly ignored, or attempted to be silenced/hidden. 

“When announcing we would bring our voices and ideas formally to the board, we were discouraged by teachers to not attend tonight,” Niles West BSU president Cherie Animashaun said. “A board of education member who is present tonight contacted me via Facebook to remind me of a chain of command within a school district and that I should stay complacent within it.”

At the meeting, the students demanded policies and procedures to protect Black students in the district, such as better recruitment and retention of Black staff, a second equity officer that focuses on the well-being and development of students, and mandatory training for staff that focuses on how to prevent discrimination in the classroom.

Although a great amount of student complaints were caused due to staff, there are some staff members who realize there is a problem and are trying to fix it. These staff members are encouraging, strong, and just the type of role model students need. Chief equity officer of Niles Township High Schools Dr. La Wanna Wells is one of these staff members. 

“Every student needs the opportunity to speak and get everything out, I don’t like that it has to be their own pain and trauma that people listen to for it to become real,” Wells said. “When we see numbers and so forth it should be real.”

People like Dr. Wells have encouraged other teachers to start getting involved and understanding issues that are happening in the school. It has been brought to attention that within the black community constant discussions about hate are had, but not many non-black students, staff, and teachers are aware of the issues happening. 

Niles North’s student activities director, Caroline Benjamin, was also a staff member at the board meeting. She echoed

Senior Victoria Ejeh shares her experiences with racism at North.

similar feelings to Dr. Wells, as she chose to attend the board meeting to support and uplift the Black voices in D219.

“It was empowering for me as a student advocate to elevate Black student voices, and really be a listener and supporter in that space,” Benjamin said. “Even though a lot of the harm that students spoke about was focused at West, North definitely has our own issues that we’re working through too, and there’s harm that’s happening here in the school. We have to continuously be engaged in these conversations and support student voices.”

Students are fighting for not just justice with the racism and inequality they have faced, but opening doors to discussions about what is happening within the schools. They are tired of being shut down and constantly having to fight for the equity they deserve.