D65 received offensive messages, hardly considered threats

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Some School District 65 officials who said they had received offensive messages in the past two years told police they did not view the messages as threats to their personal safety.

And officers reviewing other reports concluded the messages in those cases weren’t threatening either.

District 65 has been spending nearly $50,000 a month on Superintendent Devon Horton’s security for most of the past 12 months.

Police reports, provided to Evanston Now in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, show Evanston/Skokie School District Headquarters officials filed 11 such reports in the past two school years on a total of over 40 disturbing emails, postcards and phone calls. messages.

Many of those posts included racist comments, with some citing a Bible verse referring to death. They have often been received following national news stories about race-related issues in the district.

One from August 2020, for example, said, “Okay bigot. You. Devon (we can only guess your heritage) is the problem.

Messages usually arrived over short periods of time, instead of regularly. There were 10 over three days in August 2020 and 14 over 36 hours in November 2021. But there have been consecutive months when none have entered.

Recipients over the two years included a variety of district employees – Horton, other administrators, teachers and staff.

Some school board members and a board member’s employer also received messages.

Yet when the school board chose last summer to spend what has since turned into half a million dollars on security, it all went to providing a 24-hour, $65-an-hour armed guard at Horton – who appears to have been the recipient of messages in less than half of the reports.

The amendment to the security spending contract was signed just days after Horton reported that the rear passenger-side window of his 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee was smashed while parked in the school’s administration building. . The window replacement, he told police, cost him $200.

Horton waited three days after discovering the shattered window before filing the police report.

Some of the messages seemed unmistakably disturbing. Horton told police a voicemail he received in July 2021 read, “If Martin Luther King were alive, he would come out of his grave and cut your black ass off.”

Horton publicly stated at a school board meeting that he received “two voicemails containing racial slurs and threats of bodily harm.”

However, in numerous police reports, District 65 officials and responding officers have concluded that while the messages may be ugly and profane, they are not life threatening.

Officer Loyce Spells, who took Deputy Superintendent Adalib Khelgati’s report on the August 2020 10 message eruption, wrote: “Khelghati mentioned that he was aware that the emails were not from criminal or threatening nature, but wanted to document the incident. (s) and seek help from the detective office.

About a month later, Assistant Superintendent LaTarsha Green received a postcard with a Bible verse about death, but the responding officer wrote, “I asked Green if she felt threatened, and she said she didn’t and just wanted to do some more. district aware of the postcard.

Police investigations led to the arrest of an Evanston man in November 2021 for electronic communication harassment for emails that month.

This individual, believed to be a District 65 relative, allegedly sent 14 “offensive” messages over a 36-hour period to multiple District 65 email addresses.

The report does not specify who received the messages. But it appears that about a third of the total of more than 40 messages over two years came from the same person, months after the superintendent’s security agreement took effect.

Police Commander. Ryan Glew told Evanston Now the arrest was due to the “volume of emails with intent to harass”, rather than a specific or overt threat, as well as a “post-Miranda statement” from the suspect.

This case is pending before the court.

Last summer, police told Horton they had instituted “special watch” at District 65 facilities “due to prior reports.”

Thus, the police were monitoring the offices of the school system at the same time as the district was paying $65 an hour for an armed bodyguard to do the same.

The superintendent’s 24-hour security contract expires Thursday. School board finance chair Joey Hailpern told Evanston Now there will be changes, which are being worked on.

But Hailpern also defended the half-million-dollar spending as necessary under the circumstances.

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