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Homophobic And Racist Posters Are Part Of Ongoing Harassment At McCormick Jr. High

Provided by Wyoming Equality

A Cheyenne junior high was the target of hate speech Wednesday. Racist and homophobic posters discovered at McCormick Junior High have students concerned for their safety.

An eighth grader, who we're calling Nicole to protect her privacy, said this isn't the first time she's witnessed homophobia. She was a member of the school's gay-straight alliance or GSA, but within the last couple weeks, she stopped going because she felt targeted. She said homophobic slurs have been directed at her.

In response to the posters, Nicole said school administrators should convene an assembly and send a clear message that LGBTQ students and black students are welcomed.

"You would have everyone in the room and just point out that this is not ok. This is not what's supposed to be happening," she said. "We are supposed to be loving and welcoming. This isn't safe. It doesn't make anyone else feel safe, and it's not acceptable."

Cheyenne Representative Sara Burlingame is Wyoming Equality's executive director. She said the organization, which works to defend the rights of LGBTQ Wyomingites, immediately started to receive calls from concerned parents and community members.

"The message from the community has been super unequivocal and super clear: this is unacceptable. It does not reflect the values of Cheyenne. We're not going tolerate this," said Burlingame. "And we're going to show up and support our LGBT youth and our black youth with unwavering pride and support."

Burlingame said it's not as simple as finding the culprits and punishing them. She said there needs to be an understanding that young people are mimicking behavior they see around them, and the roots of that behavior must be addressed.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network reports that LGBT students in rural areas experience verbal and physical harassment at higher rates than their peers in urban and suburban areas.

Wyoming Public Radio contacted McCormick Junior High several times but Principal Jeff Conine was not available for comment.

Wyoming Equality and the ACLU are hosting a community event this Friday at 5:30 p.m. in Cheyenne. You can check with Wyoming Equality for details about the location.

Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-producing Wage/Working (a jukebox-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.
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