Gay-straight alliance members at a Wyoming junior high school have been forbidden to display Pride flags or other LGBTQ-themed paraphernalia on school grounds.
Teachers informed students last week at McCormick Junior High School in Cheyenne that they were no longer allowed to have or wear anything with rainbow colors, including shirts, pins, and bracelets, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports.
The rationale for the ban is that pro-LGBTQ items are as potentially disruptive as racist and homophobic propaganda.
The school's directive comes several weeks after Kaycee Cook, a substitute teacher and GSA co-sponsor, was dismissed after reporting the circulation of "confederate kid club" flyers with slogans such as “it’s great to be straight it’s not OK to be gay,” “black lives only matter because if it weren’t for them who would pick our cotton,” and “Join the KKK.”
At the behest of Laramie County School District 1 administrators, three McCormick faculty members, including the current GSA sponsor, pulled 20-25 GSA students out of class to tell them they could no longer display rainbow flags at school.
Ashlynn Kercher, an eighth-grade GSA member, said that when students asked if they could wear rainbow pins or bracelets, they were told no. Another GSA member confirmed she was told she was not allowed to "wear anything LGBTQ related."
"They told us it was a school distraction, and ‘you don’t want to make other people feel like you felt when you saw the posters,’" said Kercher, adding that students were also warned that those who break the new rule will be written up for dress code violations, which can result in suspension.
Assistant superintendent of instruction Tracey Kinney later issued a statement explaining that "both Rainbow flags and confederate flags were waved by students, disrupting the educational environment. That action was immediately stopped and the matter looked into. Appropriate remedial action and disciplinary action will be taken."
"Because of the provocative use of flags, especially under the current controversy at the local junior high, the District will not allow the display of confederate flags on District property or at District events," the statement continues. "Further, the District will review potential policies or regulations regarding the disruptive use of flags and symbols within the District."
Cheyenne is located about 50 miles from Laramie, where 21-year-old gay college student Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in 1998 because of his sexuality.