Although New Trier High School's controversial Seminar Day program was heavily promoted by outside interest groups, more than 900 students chose to skip the event.
Of those 900 students, 72 percent of them were current seniors preparing for graduation. Seven hundred of those students attend New Trier's Winnetka campus.
Data obtained by North Cook News revealed that over 20 percent of the student body was absent at the Northfield and Winnetka campuses on Feb. 28, the day of the event.
Initially, the school posted on its website that Seminar Day was a regular day of attendance and the school would follow its regular attendance rules. However, parent and taxpayer opposition to the event pressured the school board to reverse its decision and excuse students for that day without penalty.
The seminar was billed as “Understanding Today’s Struggle for Racial Civil Rights” and hosted over 30 speakers who discussed voter suppression, black economics and discrimination.
According to the school's website, “The purpose of the seminar day is to help students better understand the history and current status of racial civil rights in the United States, not to promote the philosophy of one political party or another, or to connect a political party to the history of racial civil rights.”
Certain speakers took a more assertive tone. One speaker recommended a book, "Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism" and another's social media account referred to police officers as "pigs."
Monica Trinidad made a presentation called "We Charge Genocide: An Emergence of a Continued Movement." Her Twitter account, referring to mounted police officers, called for her followers to "Get them animals off those horses."
On average at the Northfield campus of New Trier, there are usually 1,032 students in attendance, and the Winnetka campus has over 2,000 students in attendance every day.
The cost to operate New Trier is $533,000 per day, and one group publicly spoke out against Seminar Day and its teachings.
“Over $533,000 is being diverted from other uses – instruction, more constructive programming, etc. to present Seminar Day,” Parents of New Trier, a group that keeps a close watch over the performance and curriculum of the school, said on its website.
Attendance totals were all released from New Trier High School after a Freedom of Information Act request. In the request, New Trier provided attendance records for both campuses on Feb. 28, student enrollment for the 2016-2017 school year and a summary of health plans and benefits for New Trier employees.
At New Trier, about 85 percent of students are white, with the remaining percentages in black, Hispanic, Asian and other races.