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LCSD#1 Presents Action Plan In Response To Racism And Homophobia

Tennessee Watson
Wyoming Public Radio

Community members gathered in Cheyenne Thursday evening to discuss next steps following incidents of racism and homophobia at McCormick Junior High. The incidents involved reports of ongoing bullying directed at students of color and LGBTQ students. Posters were found around the school with racist and homophobic language at the end of March.

Laramie County School District #1 Superintendent Boyd Brown presented a draft of an action plan to improve the district's response to bullying, harassment, and intolerance and asked for community feedback.

A representative from the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Relations Service was on site to facilitate small group conversations.

Roughly 100 teachers, parents, district leaders, and public officials were there, including Stephen Latham with the Wyoming NAACP. He thanked Superintendent Brown and the district for taking action.

"I want to say thank you for this great action plan because it is a great step forward and it's something I think we work with. And one of the first things I saw was it said it is a living document that will evolve throughout implementation to account for additional resources and support," said Latham.

The plan outlines a need to ensure that anti-bullying programs are taken seriously by both students and staff. A recent investigation indicated that had not been the case.

Ashlynn Kercher, an 8th grader at McCormick, was one of a few students present. She said she appreciates the plan, but she has concerns about what will be done to build back trust between students and teachers.

"We all know we can't go to a teacher. We can't go to higher faculty because we already did and nothing happened," said Kercher.

Several other participants mentioned the need for restorative justice, which is a practice that helps communities heal from harm and regroup after conflict.

The district is implementing elements of the plan immediately, and is working towards hosting a student-led Youth Equality Summit for August 2019.

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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