Bullying in Cheyenne Schools
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - After a meeting with Mayor Patrick Collins, Air Force Officers, and the Superintendent of Laramie County School District 1, to discuss discriminatory behaviors Military members and their families were facing in local schools and within the city, it became evident that discriminatory bias needed to be addressed.
In early March, LCSD1 put forth a “Call to Action” letter to notify parents of some of the negative behaviors they saw across social media platforms and in their school district.
This notice directed parents and the community members to report any marginalizing actions to the schools or their “Safe to Tell” and their “See something. Say something " programs.
On March 18th Mayor Collins signed the City of Cheyenne’s Bias Crime Ordinance into effect, reflecting a bigger issue Cheyenne Schools also face.
While the city works towards creating greater equality and a kinder city, so are the schools.
Our station recently received complaints from concerned parents stating that their children were getting racially bullied as young as third grade.
One parent said their middle schooler was experiencing physical bullying and homophobic slurs.
When they reported their complaint to the schools, the parents said they received little help.
Theodore Johnson recently moved his family to Cheyenne for work and placed his middle school son into a local school.
Johnson said on his son’s first week, the school was locked down due to a student bringing a pistol on campus.
Within days Johnson’s son told him the concerning ways students addressed teachers.
“Swearing at teachers in the classroom, screaming at teachers and there was no or little repercussions for those students doing that... It was kind of a normal everyday thing and there was no control over the situation,” said Theodore Johnson.
Weeks into being at his new school, Johnson’s son said he started to get bullied with homophobic slurs and physical attacks.
When Johnson informed the school, he said there was little action or communication between departments of the occurrences.
He says teachers were also fearful of helping him for fear of retribution from higher-ups.
Johnson, like other parents, asked to transfer his son to another school.
”When he’s coming home crying to you that he’s miserable, it’s hard for a parent, for any parent.” said Johnson.
Johnson said the school told him he could fill out the paperwork.
“They told me I could fill out the boundary waiver but it was not going to get approved,” said Johnson.
He was also directed to the Bully Investigator and Violence Prevention Team and was told it would take 30 days to investigate the bullying allegations.
Johnson says ultimately he was not allowed to transfer his son.
We spoke to Chris Zimny, who is the Violence Prevention Coordinator for LCSD1.
He says the district does has two programs, that have been running for 10 years, to minimize bullying.
“We’re trying to help them. We’re trying to educate them to make better choices, because we know if you do these behaviors as an adult, you’re going to be facing a judge, you’re going to be facing law enforcement. These are illegal behaviors.” said Zimny.
LCSD1 has the Olweus program for kids in Kindergarten through Grade 8 and the Safe School Ambassador program for high schoolers, which according to authorities, places popular, well-liked kids as bully prevention ambassadors for schools.
These bullying prevention programs seek to reduce and intervene in bullying and gets students back on track academically.
“There’s not a silver bullet for everything, but I do think we have a robust program,” said James Fraley, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction for LCSD1.
The program works in conjunction with Title 9 and “Protected Classes,” which include race, religion and sexual orientation.
“We try to be as responsive to the needs of students as we can, and try and keep those healthy environments and relationships because without those the student can’t stay focused on a book... Without their basic needs of feeling a sense of belonging in their environment,” said Fraley.
The bullying investigative process gathers evidence, talks to teachers and students. Gets witnesses’ information, looks through electronic conversations and video footage.
If guilty, bullies may be suspended, and counselors and social workers are offered to the victim and the bully, according to authorities.
LCSD1 also hired Drew Hall as their access and opportunity representative to help with behavior intervention support, trauma-informed care, and other restorative methods.
“This is not a problem or a situation that started a week ago. This is a long-standing conversation and it’s really about celebrating our people, our differences, our connection right here in our community,” said Dr. Margaret Crespo, Superintendent of LCSD1.
The school district has also introduced their “Kindness Campaign,” which includes kindness challenges, and social media interaction to help move schools towards a place where everyone belongs.
On a final note, Johnson has since pulled his son out of public school to home school.
He says although his son misses his friends, he’s much happier and more peaceful now.
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