CHEYENNE – More than six months ago, racist and homophobic flyers were spread around McCormick Junior High that rattled the school and the wider community. Now, some community members and leaders are concerned about whether the school district is keeping the promises it made after the incident.
The Wyoming Independent Citizen Coalition, previously Cheyenne Community Leaders, met Tuesday evening to discuss issues with the school’s implementation of the SPIRIT program and action plan.
The SPIRIT program allows students, teachers and administrators to collaborate, identify issues at the school and work toward solutions together. The program was supposed to be implemented in the school by Nov. 1, but that deadline was not met.
The goal now is to have the program running before April.
“They had plenty of time,” said Stephen Latham of the Wyoming Independent Citizen Coalition. “They’re backpedaling on what we said should be done. They’re not following through.”
School district officials said they are still assessing current programs, and attributed the delay, in part, to the principal being new at the school. Laramie County School District 1 Superintendent Boyd Brown said it didn’t happen as quickly as they would’ve liked, and that the deadline was set too early.
“I think that was me trying to be optimistic,” Brown said.
After the incident, James Williams, a mediator from the U.S. Department of Justice, was brought in to help with the process going forward. Williams said the new April goal was set so students at the school could see that the incident was being addressed this year.
“As long as it’s during the school year, the young people are able to see a tangible, measurable outcome,” Williams said.
In March, flyers were passed around the junior high 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.”
The severity of the content drew a large public response, and the district formulated an action plan that outlined how it would respond going forward.
The Nov. 1 deadline for the SPIRIT program was originally set in the action plan. Members of the Wyoming Independent Citizen Coalition voiced serious concern Tuesday about how that plan is being carried out.
“If we look at the action plan, they’re not following it at all,” Latham said.
At the meeting, James Peebles, founder of Sankofa American Heritage Inc. and a member of the coalition, went even further to say the district is straying from the agreed upon action plan.
“What they did do was contrary to the fact of what was written,” Peebles said.
The coalition questioned whether the diversity coordination and leadership hiring committees were actually made more diverse. They asked the DOJ mediator to bring their concerns to the school district and to get an updated version of the action plan.
Superintendent Brown said good strides were made on the school’s end, pointing to diversity training for staff, a bully-proofing program and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports that improve students’ behavior.
“We’ve implemented the action plan,” Brown said. “We’ve got a lot of the different things completed on there.”
Brown said the school district was currently reevaluating its disciplinary matrix and continuing to make progress on the plan.
“We need to continue to move forward with it,” Brown said.