Tensions surrounding the Waukegan teachers strike, which began October 2, boiled over at the town's school board meeting Tuesday night.
The Waukegan School Board was "forced to abruptly adjourn" the meeting "due to lack of civility," the school district said in a statement.
"Despite repeated attempts, the audience would not come to order, and comments could not be heard from the board or the attendees, making an open discussion of public issues impossible," the statement added.
In a statement, the Illinois Federation of Teachers explained what went down at the school board meeting:
Tonight's Waukegan Board of Education meeting ended before any business could be conducted after board member Victoria Torres jumped off the stage, castigating parents with, 'Sit down and shut up!' Board President Anita Hanna immediately adjourned the meeting after students fired back at Torres with chants of 'We support our teachers,' voicing their support for their teachers who have been on strike since October 2.
This was the second board meeting since the beginning of the strike. Parents, students, and community members showed their alliance with teachers at the October 14th meeting, and tonight's meeting showed how that support has become stronger in the past two weeks.
The 1800-capacity auditorium at Waukegan High School was a sea of blue - the union's color - worn by parents, students, and the community. Tensions flared early in the meeting when President Hanna announced that the time for public comment would be cut in half and other rules changes that weakened the voices of the community. There was much tension in the room directed at the board due to the absence of board members at contract negotiations. The backlash represented the community's frustration at what they feel is disrespect from the Board of Education. Tonight's uprising appeared to be led by students.
"I wish it hadn't come to this," Kathy Schwarz, president of the Waukegan Teachers' Council, said in a statement. "But teachers have been waiting since July for this board to offer us a reasonable and fair contract. I believe that the community fully appreciates how difficult negotiations have been for the teachers since this process began."
Representatives from the teachers union and Waukegan District 60 will continue contract negotiations Wednesday. Read more about the dispute here.
UPDATE 1 (3:36 p.m.): Waukegan District 60 Board of Education President Anita Hanna and board member Victoria Torres issued statements earlier today in response to last night's board meeting.
I sincerely apologize for my actions last night, and can offer no excuse for them. The tensions of the past few weeks, as well as the personal attacks on my character, my family and my actions, have been nearly unbearable. In the chaos of the Board meeting, where we couldn't even hear the person next to us, I felt attacked and lost my temper. As a leader, I realize I set a poor example for the students of Waukegan Public Schools, and for the community, and I am truly sorry for how I acted.
The Board does not condone disrespectful behavior by any persons, including other Board Members, and we hope the progression of events that transpired last night will never happen again. We request civility of all open meeting attendees and strive to set an example for the community. While we have all felt the pressure of tense negotiations over the past few weeks, we have a responsibility to act as leaders we want our children to admire.
There is nobody in this community who wants this strike - not the students, not the parents, not the Board and not the Teachers. We are committed to negotiations and our team is back at the table this morning, focused on getting a deal done and putting our children back in the classrooms.