A federal lawsuit has been filed against Evanston Township High School District 202, the City of Evanston, school officials and Evanston police for allegedly violating the civil rights of several students during a Dec. 2021 lockdown at the school.
The lawsuit was filed May 23 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Eastern Illinois, on behalf of three mothers of current and former students. It alleges multiple civil rights violations, including false arrest, unlawful detention, interference with parent-child relationship and violation of Illinois law relating to the notification of parents when their children are being detained and questioned on school grounds.
“As a proximate result of Defendants’ misconduct, Plaintiffs and their children suffered severe anxiety, mental anguish and emotional pain and suffering,” the lawsuit says. It also says the plaintiffs are seeking “compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and costs for any additional relief this court deems just and proper.”
Representatives from the district, the City of Evanston and the Evanston Police Department could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit comes as the result of a Dec. 16, 2021 incident in which Evanston Township High School, at the 1600 block of Dodge Avenue, was placed on lockdown for several hours after officials found two firearms in student backpacks. No shots were fired and no students were injured during the lockdown.
The lawsuit alleges that in one incident a student was handcuffed and placed in custody in front of his fellow students, and that the student was later released without charges.
Indeed, the three student plaintiffs in the lawsuit were never suspected of possessing firearms, the lawsuit says. But it says they were brought to the dean’s office, detained and questioned without notification to their parents, and then taken in handcuffs to the Evanston police station, based on speculation they had smoked marijuana in a school bathroom. According to the lawsuit, no evidence was ever presented that any of the students had smoked marijuana in any bathroom. The lawsuit also alleges school officials prevented the students from contacting their parents and that they hung up one student’s phone when he tried to call his mother.
“The defendants in this case were entrusted with these kids to protect and educate them,” Chicago attorney Jordan Marsh, who filed the lawsuit, said in a statement. “Not only did they fail to protect them, they treated them like criminals without any basis to believe they had done anything wrong, and actively kept them separated from their parents during one of the most traumatic and stressful periods of their lives.”