Opinion | Evanston: A privilege to live here, but at what cost?

Sophia LaFleur, Staff Writer

The memories of our hometown linger with us, reminding us of the place where we learned to walk, ride a bike and dream. Time and travels may bring us far, but the memory of childhood homes will persist even with distance—in miles and moments.

For about 25 percent of adults surveyed by the North American Moving Company, the idea of leaving their hometown for more than 10 years is unfathomable. As such, people can integrate aspects of their childhood to their adult life to experience a semblance of their early environments.

“I love that it’s the first place that feels like home. I live in a nice neighborhood, the people are friendly, and you can walk to things … if I wanted to, I could walk downtown, I could walk to a restaurant, I could go to coffee. If I need to, I can get around without a car,” says Michelle Ross, an English teacher at Culver Elementary School.

Home doesn’t have to be a physical location, but for lots of residents, Evanston brings that sense of coziness and love that you get from being home. Ross brings up some of the best aspects of Evanston that lots of us take for granted, such as proximity to amenities and the lake.

But for some people, the tenacity of the town is stifling, revealing a deeply flawed system underneath. ETHS tends to sweep student conflicts under the rug and not address them as thoroughly as they should.

“Those more student oriented [conflicts] are [ones] that teachers (and staff in general) choose to avoid if it seems like a delicate situation,” says ETHS senior Lucas Eyler.

This is largely due to Evanston’s valiant effort to protect the image it puts out as being accepting and progressive, which would be marred if people were aware of the frequency of its contradictions.

One of the contradictions that comes immediately to mind is within the band at ETHS.

We mistakenly hired a disgusting predator of a man to work with the color guard in the marching band. Lorenzo Medrano worked both at ETHS and, up until March 2020, at LaPorte High School in Indiana as a Color Guard coach. In Sept. 2021, he was arrested on charges of child seduction filed against him by a student at LaPorte High School. Medrano had engaged in this predatory behavior between fall of 2019 and spring of 2020, but the student had waited a year until she was 18 to file charges. Long before the charges had been filed, however, the school had fired Medrano.

After Medrano was arrested, ETHS subsequently put him on leave and eventually fired him. As The Evanstonian reported last year, complains had been filed against Medrano at ETHS as well, but he was cleared by the school after an investigation.

The people in color guard still felt violated and unsafe, having received some of that treatment from him prior to his arrest in Indiana and subsequent release by ETHS. Now, since he’s been gone, it’s very rarely talked about. The school’s handling of the accustations against Medrano are emblematic of how Evanston operates broadly. Only after a news article brought to light abuses of lifeguards in Evanston did the city take action. Only after Black employees voiced unfair treatment did the city promise to act.

I cannot wait to leave this town. I’m very privileged to be able to live here, and even more so to grow up here with all the opportunities and resources that we have because we’re better funded than CPS or even D65. The money that ETHS has allows for us to have better teachers and a better learning environment, but because it’s bigger than most high schools and even some colleges, there are too many people to manage in a way that ensures everyone’s safety.

The issue of optics is true at school just as it is at the city. ETHS, D65 and Evanston as a city want to be seen as desirable, but those in power often go to extreme lengths to ensure that happens. Its residents keep their children sheltered from harsher realities much longer than they should be, allowing them to get easily overwhelmed when faced with truths that are unyielding and jarring.

Many in Evanston continue to make excuses for this behavior or pretend like it never happened after a few months quietly go by.

Out of their sight, out of their minds.