A University of Wyoming report found that race was not a factor when University police detained a group of Native American students from St. Stephens High School in the campus bookstore last weekend.
The students were there as part of a campus-visit day for students. A customer in the bookstore told employees there she suspected one student of shoplifting, and described the t-shirt he was wearing.
According to the UW report and St. Stephens administrators, bookstore employees then searched the shopping bags of all six male students. The report notes that the students were wearing matching t-shirts.
No evidence of shoplifting was found. Campus police then detained the students in a back meeting room and contacted some of their parents.
St. Stephens principal Cheryl Meyers says she’s deeply disappointed with UW’s response to the incident. She says she raised concerns with school officials about how the searches and detentions may have violated her students’ rights—regardless of race.
“To have an investigation come back which was so limited in scope, compared to the concerns I had expressed, is an assault on myself, the students who attend this school, their parents and the community at large,” Meyers says.
UW spokesman Chad Baldwin says the investigation was prompted by a complaint about race-based discrimination, but he’s also confident that no other rights or laws were violated.
“The situation was handled appropriately by the University Store and UWPD employees, in line with the way other reports of potential shoplifting are handled,” wrote Baldwin, in an email. “So there was no differential treatment. UW believes the conduct of its employees was appropriate, and there are undoubtedly people who would disagree.”
Cheryl Meyers and UW President Dick McGinity met last week to discuss the issue, before the UW report was released. Meyers says she and her students were not contacted during the investigation.
“Anytime there’s an investigation, I think it’s imperative you collect information from all witnesses before you come to any conclusion in regard to what actually occurred,” says Meyers. “I question the definition of this as an investigation when no one else besides university employees were contacted.”
Read the University of Wyoming General Counsel’s report on the incident.
Read St. Stephens principal Cheryl Meyer’s response to that report below:
October 8, 2015
I am deeply disappointed by the University of Wyoming’s investigation and handling of this situation. President McGinity met with me on Friday, October 2, 2015 to express his interest in handling this situation in a professional manner. He stated that the investigation was not completed, however he would let me know when it was and we would work together to move forward in a positive way. Unfortunately this did not happen. I was not given an opportunity to speak with the President McGinity prior to the University releasing the investigative report.
In my personal and professional opinion the so called “investigation” that was conducted by the University of Wyoming regarding the incidents that transpired on September 26, 2015 is an insult to the intelligence of myself, the students and their parents, and every reasonable prudent citizen of our Nation.