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Students protest Lander school board non-discrimination policy change, detailing harassment

Willow Wells (they/them) addresses a crowd in downtown Lander.
Taylar Stagner
Willow Wells (they/them) addresses a crowd in downtown Lander.

This week, about one hundred and fifty people in downtown Lander gathered to protest against Fremont County School District #1’s board voting to remove verbiage in their districts non-discrimination policy. The identities removed were sexual orientation, gender expression, veteran, pregnancy and marital status.

Michelle Escudero is on the school board and voted to keep the verbiage. She said the verbiage was just added three years ago, so it's disappointing to see it be voted off.

“It's the foundation from which we build a safe and inclusive educational institution, it gives people in our community in the school, the notice of what we stand for, as a community,” she said while attending the protest.

The board voted last week and passed 4 to 3. Part of the reason for the change was council members saw the inclusion of gender and expression and sexual orientation repetitive. The policy still includes sex.

A dozen gay and queer students from Lander High School and Middle School spoke of slurs and harassment they experience at their schools on a daily basis as they addressed the crowd.

Willow Wells spoke at the protest and during the school board meeting. They spoke about being called slurs and being told to go kill themself.

“I went there, and I poured out my heart and soul to those people. And then they just acted like it was nothing and that that hurts a lot,” Wells said.

The school board voted to align the non discrimination policy withstate discrimination policy so it still includes race, religion, sex, and disability.

Taylar Dawn Stagner is a central Wyoming rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has degrees in American Studies, a discipline that interrogates the history and culture of America. She was a Native American Journalist Association Fellow in 2019, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for her Modern West podcast episode about drag queens in rural spaces in 2021. Stagner is Arapaho and Shoshone.

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