Residents call on Glen Ellyn board to denounce racist notes found on school grounds

 
 
Posted4/10/2018 5:25 AM
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  • Glen Ellyn resident Sania Irwin urged village board members Monday to publicly denounce racist and derogatory notes found on the grounds of two public schools three weeks ago.

      Glen Ellyn resident Sania Irwin urged village board members Monday to publicly denounce racist and derogatory notes found on the grounds of two public schools three weeks ago. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • "For obvious reasons, the board does not comment regarding ongoing criminal investigations," Village President Diane McGinley said. "However, as a village, it should go without saying that we embrace diversity and we welcome all diverse perspectives and respect the opinions of all."

      "For obvious reasons, the board does not comment regarding ongoing criminal investigations," Village President Diane McGinley said. "However, as a village, it should go without saying that we embrace diversity and we welcome all diverse perspectives and respect the opinions of all." Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • "First I want to speak directly to the kids and their parents: understand that we will take every step and we will pay every cost and we will bear every burden to make sure that you're safe in your classrooms and that our residents are safe in their communities," Trustee Mark Senak said.

      "First I want to speak directly to the kids and their parents: understand that we will take every step and we will pay every cost and we will bear every burden to make sure that you're safe in your classrooms and that our residents are safe in their communities," Trustee Mark Senak said. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Glen Ellyn officials faced criticism Monday from a group of residents who have called on the village board to publicly denounce racist and derogatory notes that were left on two school campuses three weeks ago.

At the start of the board meeting Monday night, Village President Diane McGinley read a brief prepared statement defending the board's public silence on the incident last month that canceled classes at St. Petronille School and led to heightened security at Glenbard West High School.

"For obvious reasons, the board does not comment regarding ongoing criminal investigations," McGinley said. "However, as a village, it should go without saying that we embrace diversity and we welcome all diverse perspectives and respect the opinions of all."

Trustee Mark Senak was more direct in his remarks and urged anyone involved in the notes to come forward to police.

"I don't consider this to be a prank," he said. "I don't consider this to be a joke. I don't consider this to be funny. I consider this to be as serious as the events that have taken place around our country that ended up in fatalities."

Glen Ellyn police released a statement on March 19 that notes were found on school grounds, but added the "content and quality" of the messages would not be released, citing their investigation.

But a Glenbard High School District 87 spokeswoman said police and Glenbard West administrators were made aware of stickers containing racist and derogatory statements placed in various locations outside of the school. One of the stickers contained a threatening statement directed at Glenbard West, the spokeswoman said, adding at the time that there was no immediate safety risk to students or staff.

Since, members of a progressive group called "Our Voice" have written to trustees to issue an official statement denouncing such behavior and making clear that threats would not be tolerated.

"There is no place in our community for racism," said Sania Irwin, one of four speakers on the issue during the board meeting Monday. "A number of Glen Ellyn residents have made this request in writing, but I'm urging the Glen Ellyn village again to make a strong and unequivocal public statement that Glen Ellyn will not tolerate racist, derogatory statements and threats. That is not the community we are. At times, it is important to reinforce our value statement. This one of those times."

Sandra Alexander said she thought the statements by board members Monday were overdue.

"The village failed to provide an immediate statement of reassurance to our citizens that we are united against these types of incidents, and by doing so, the village could have sent a very clear message to the individuals who seek to threaten any of our residents, thereby potentially insulating the village from future incidents," she said. "This is a missed opportunity for the village to take a leadership role and demonstrate that we are an inclusive and unified community and that we will stand up for one another."

Alexander also called for schools, village and police officials to work jointly on a response.

"I hope you will make a public and coordinated statement from the village, the police department and the school officials that is transparent to the entire community and that conveys our commitment to inclusion and unity for all of our residents."

McGinley conceded that officials "could do a little bit better job in communication with the schools in coordinating that."

"So we are allowing the police department to do their job, and when there is a time to make a statement, we will do so," she said. "We have different perspectives between the school and the village, and the police falls underneath our jurisdiction. And therefore we respect the wishes of the police of when to comment and when not to."

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