When This Teacher Reported Homophobic, Racist Flyers, She Was Fired

Kaycee Cook was a substitute teacher at McCormick Junior High School in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She also helped advise the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club.

This organization is an extremely important presence in the school. According to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, nearly all of the club’s roughly 40 members have experienced bullying during this school year.

Students draped in Confederate flags have yelled homophobic slurs at the club’s members. Same-sex couples said they’ve been harassed for holding hands. And students have even reported teachers who refuse to use their chosen pronouns.

Cook tried to use her position to advocate for the marginalized and bullied students. And when she learned about vulgar, homophobic and racist flyers that were plastered around the school, she knew she had to take action.

According to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, the flyers contained incredibly offensive, hateful language, 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.”
  • “Join the kkk (the confederate kid club).”

Images of the flyers also circulated on social media.

Wyoming Equality Executive Director Sara Burlingame learned what happened and contacted McCormick Junior High Principal Jeff Conine. Burlingame told KGWN that after their conversation it was clear the principal had a “different understanding” than she did. According to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Conine was reluctant to send a letter to parents on the topic. And instead, he decided the best path was to fire the teacher who reported the incident.

Cook learned via email that she was terminated from her role as a substitute teacher and not allowed in the school, according to KGWN. Queerty reported the text of her termination email as seen below:

“Ms. McMullen Cook-
I am notifying you that due to incidents that have occurred at McCormick you are no longer welcome as a guest or substitute teacher in our building. If you find it necessary to visit to visit your husband during the school day you may only do so when students are not present in his classroom […]
Jeffry Conine”

Cook wasn’t devastated over losing the job, but she was distraught about not being able to be a resource for students.

“It’s okay that I can’t substitute teach there anymore, but this is really about the kids and them having a safe person and that’s where I’m hurt,” Cook told KGWN. “That these kids don’t have a co-sponsor of their GSA.”

Initially, Superintendent Boyd Brown said he hadn’t heard about the events and that the principal was handling the matter internally. But that tone began to change after an explosion of local and national media attention coupled with public pressure.

As an update to the story, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported that the primary student behind the posters was discovered and being disciplined “in line with district policy.” And Brown said Cook would likely be reinstated.

The school’s Board of Trustees has also stepped in and is reviewing its harassment and bullying policies, promising they will be adequately enforced.

This positive change of tune from the district was only possible because everyday people stood up and said this was unacceptable. By posting this story on social media and emailing school officials, the people forced a progressive change that will benefit countless LGBQT+ students, students of color and other marginalized groups in this school district. Our activism really makes a difference!

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Photo Credit: Denin Lawley

47 comments

pam w
pam w4 days ago

Oh, good grief! I absolutely would publicize this in every possible venue. Then...I'd sue them.

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Sabrina Degasperi
Sabrina D4 days ago

You're right Freya H.

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Freya H
Freya H5 days ago

Yes indeed - shame, shame, 10,000 times over shame on McCormick Junior High! Cook is a hero, and deserves recognition for her bravery in the name of tolerance and understanding. The ones who should be fired are the creeps who allow such hateful behavior. Kids need to understand that hate mongering is wrong.

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silja salonen
silja s5 days ago

shame on the school... shame on all the parents who sit in fear. shame on the school board.

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Pam Bruce
Pam Bruce6 days ago

Shame on this school. Hire her back and do it NOW. You need this type of educator. Your school sounds like it wants to move back to the dark ages. If I were a parent I would transfer my children immediately.

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Ruth S
Ruth S6 days ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S6 days ago

Thanks.

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pam w
pam w6 days ago

I'm so tired of bigots supporting their hate by claiming "JESUS" makes it all right.

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill6 days ago

noted

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Shirley S
Shirley S6 days ago

I was looking for a petition to support this excellent teacher.

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