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Cheyenne schools release action plan on bullying

CHEYENNE — Laramie County School District 1 on Monday released an action plan developed in the wake of an investigation of harassment and bullying at Cheyenne’s McCormick Junior High. The multilevel plan focuses on student-centered supports, training across the district and levels of community engagement.

The plan was presented at Monday’s LCSD1 Board of Trustees meeting after the district announced Friday it had concluded its investigation into incidents of harassment and bullying at McCormick. That report was summarized in a statement but not released.

On March 27, homophobic and racist flyers were handed out and put up in the hallway by McCormick students, targeting members of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club. The flyers 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 two-page action plan released Monday focuses on multiple steps and includes deadlines for new initiatives to start.

When it comes to actions centered at McCormick, the district said it would continue additional counseling at the school implemented after March 27. It also would work with the Community Relations Service in the U.S. Department of Justice to implement a program aimed at diffusing issues of harassment and bullying at the school.

Along with the McCormick-centered efforts, the district will increase training for staff and administrators on the process for reporting and investigating harassment, bullying, sexual harassment and other incidents. It also plans to examine and potentially overhaul its process for reporting and investigating complaints, and reach out to parents and students in an educational effort to ensure the community understands how to report incidents.

The district will also conduct at least two community meetings on the plan and on the issues of harassment and bullying. The first will take place May 23 and will be facilitated by the Department of Justice. The second will be a symposium June 22-29 and will be led by students in a partnership with F.E. Warren Air Force Base.

“(This plan is) something we’re going to work on for quite a while,” LCSD1 Superintendent Boyd Brown said. “We’re going to need some help from the community.”

Brown said public input would be imperative for the district to make sure it is addressing the concerns of its community.

The action plan was praised by many in attendance who have called for the district to do something after the March 27 incident at McCormick. But that praise was mixed with skepticism about the process, whether the district would follow through with the plan, and the lack of community involvement outlined in the action plan.

“I appreciate the board’s work, and, Dr. Brown, your work, in creating this action plan. On the whole, it integrates a lot of the things we talked about,” said the Rev. Hannah Villnave of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Cheyenne. “The feeling I’m left with, and I imagine I’m not alone, is thinking it’s a good document but still feeling a strong sense of mistrust.”

Villnave said the mistrust came into play because of not knowing how the plan would be administered, and whether those tasked with helping implement its points will actually be brought into the process. While the board might be trustworthy, there was significant breaches of trust by school administrators in carrying out their mandated duties.

One piece that was missing, Villnave said, was community oversight over the process. That sentiment was echoed by several speakers Monday night.

Abbey Kercher, whose daughter is a member of McCormick’s GSA Club, said she wanted the action plan to be implemented. But she didn’t trust the district to actually do what needed to be done to solve what she sees as a significant and entrenched problem.

“It’s smoke and mirrors. I think they’re telling us what we want to hear. I hope it’s true. I hope there’s follow-through,” Kercher said. “The investigation, I don’t know how much we can trust that. It’s employees of the school district. So I think the basis of trust is kind of (not there).

“If the report was released, I think that would help.”

Brown said the district would have to earn the community’s trust by following through on the action plan and listening to the community’s concerns, criticism and where it sees areas for improvement.

While the district didn’t release the final report, its summary said it found “some” instances of bullying, harassment and confrontation among students at McCormick over time. The investigation also found McCormick staff members didn’t always follow district policy on how to respond to reports of bullying.

Brown said the report couldn’t be released because of staff and student information. When asked if the district considered redacting the personal information to release the report to the public, Brown reiterated the district’s belief that the confidential information in the report prevented it from becoming public.

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