By Morgan Hughes
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE – Rainbow flags and LGBTQ-related clothing have not been banned at McCormick Junior High or district-wide, Laramie County School District 1 Superintendent Boyd Brown told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on Friday morning.
On Wednesday, students in McCormick’s Gay-Straight Alliance club were told they were no longer allowed to have or wear any LGBTQ-related apparel 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.
Brown said this was not the district’s intention, and the message had been misconstrued.
District administrators heard Wednesday that students were planning a sort of demonstration at McCormick, where some students were going to display Confederate flags and others would display rainbow flags.
Brown said the district thought that would be distracting to the learning environment, so those students were asked not to display their flags Wednesday. He said the intention was not to ban rainbow flags district-wide.
Confederate flags, however, have been banned, along with swastikas, Brown said.
“We see those as a hate symbol, and we do not want them at school,” he said.
This aligns with a statement released Thursday by LCSD1 assistant superintendent of instruction Tracey Kinney, which read, “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.”
As for rainbow flags and LGBTQ-related clothing, Brown said as long as students do not use them to incite other students, they are welcome in the district. He did not know how the message got out that those items were banned district-wide.
Brown did confirm that LCSD1 Title IX coordinator John Balow had been in contact with McCormick’s GSA sponsors, but he said he was unclear on what message was relayed to the school’s GSA students.
“I don’t know exactly what the message was,” he said.
Balow is conducting an investigation into the discovery of racist and homophobic flyers found taped up and handed out to GSA students March 26 at the school. Per district policy, he has 30 days to wrap up that investigation, which began April 8, after the district’s spring break.
In response to a report that school principals across the district had been told Thursday that rainbow flags were banned, he said he did not know where that directive came from. Brown was in Casper attending a conference Wednesday and Thursday, and did not return calls for comment during that time.
School officials are currently working with McCormick’s GSA sponsors to clarify the message given Wednesday afternoon, which, according to students and parents, was pretty explicit.
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.
“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 break this new rule, they will be written up for dress code violations, which can result in suspensions over time.