CHEYENNE – Students in McCormick Junior High School’s Gay Straight Alliance club were told Wednesday afternoon they were no longer allowed to have or wear any LGBTQ paraphernalia on school grounds, including flags, shirts, pins and bracelets.
Students were told they would not even be allowed to wear rainbow colors to school, according to a student and several parents.
This is the latest response by Laramie County School District 1 officials to racist and anti-gay flyers found in the school last month that read “it’s great to be straight it’s not OK to be gay,” “black lives only matter because if it weren’t for them who would pick our cotton,” and “Join the KKK,” with “the confederate kid club” in parentheses beneath it.
It comes after both Confederate and rainbow flags were present in the school this week, according to a statement released Thursday afternoon by assistant superintendent of instruction Tracey Kinney.
That statement reads, “Yesterday at McCormick Junior High, both Rainbow flags and confederate flags were waved by students, disrupting the educational environment. That action was immediately stopped and the matter looked into. Appropriate remedial action and disciplinary action will be taken.”
It continues, “Because of the provocative use of flags, especially under the current controversy at the local junior high, the District will not allow the display of confederate flags on District property or at District events. Further, the District will review potential policies or regulations regarding the disruptive use of flags and symbols within the District.”
The statement does not say the district is banning rainbow flags, however.
At around 2:20 p.m. Wednesday, roughly 20-25 students from the GSA club were called out of class and sent to a room where three faculty awaited them, said Ashlynn Kercher, an eighth-grade member of McCormick’s GSA club.
The faculty included the current GSA sponsor and two others, who told the GSA students they would no longer be allowed to have rainbow flags. The students asked if instead they could make pins or bracelets. They were told no, Ashlynn said.
“They told us it was a school distraction, and ‘you don’t want to make other people feel like you felt when you saw the posters,’” Ashlynn said.
Ashlynn said they were told if they violate this new rule, they will be written up for dress code violations, which can result in suspensions over time.
Emily Fowler, a McCormick parent whose daughter is a GSA member, said her daughter told her the same thing.
“I could tell she’d been crying,” Fowler said of her observations when she picked her daughter up from school Wednesday.
“She said ‘they told us we weren’t allowed to wear anything LGBTQ related,’” Fowler said her daughter told her Wednesday afternoon.
McCormick Principal Jeff Conine told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle that he was unaware this meeting had happened and he had not made any decision to ban anything.
“It didn’t come from this administration,” Conine said Wednesday afternoon.
Abby Kercher, Ashlynn’s mother, said she’d spoken with the district’s Title IX coordinator, John Balow, who is responsible for the ongoing investigation into the flyers found at the school last month.
Kercher said Balow told her that he and Conine made the decision to ban the clothing and flags together. Conine said he had no knowledge of this.
Balow declined to comment on the situation and told the Tribune Eagle he would be directing all questions to Superintendent Boyd Brown and assistant superintendent Kinney. Brown was attending a conference in Casper both Wednesday and Thursday and did not return calls for comment.