Sweetwater County School District #1 has released a statement on a controversy involving a pro-Donald Trump bulletin board message at Rock Springs High School which was allegedly torn down by other students last week.

Allegations on social media over the last few days have accused the district of stifling students' right to hold and express political opinions in support of President Trump.

In response to the allegations, the district posted this statement on its website on Monday:

''Sweetwater County School District Number One (SW#1) would like to provide some information regarding recent posts circulating through various social media outlets. SW#1 recognizes that every individual is entitled to their opinion and expression. It is with the intent of furthering social discourse and clarifying misinformation, that SW#1 now provides the following additional facts and information.

On Wednesday, January 22, 2020, high school students completed a project within Tiger Tots, a student run preschool program. The purpose of the project was to create a preschool centered bulletin board related to the month of February. To celebrate President’s Day, one of the bulletin boards was titled “Trump 2020”. Students that support the Trump 2020 campaign took it upon themselves to sign the poster. Some students included derogatory and racist comments, which resulted in students yelling at other students, and threats of physical violence. There were a number of students negatively affected by these comments and actions. A set of students ripped the Trump Poster down to stop the activity. In follow up interviews, students explained that they were distressed because of the racial content of the conversations, not the references to President Trump.

On the evening of Wednesday, January 22, 2020, administration was made aware of some student organized activities being planned for the next day to show support for President Trump. The activities in and of themselves were not the concern. Students planned to wear their Trump gear and bring Trump flags. Administration became concerned when additional information came forth that some students recommended bringing guns to school. The priority of the School District is student safety and the decision was made that the student planned gathering in the gym would not be allowed. Students respectfully took the signs outside and stood in support of President Trump. These activities were not broken up by the School District and no students were disciplined for these activities.

Thursday around lunch time, Rock Springs High School received a phone call regarding some alleged activities that occurred off campus. Acting on those reports, vehicles were searched upon arriving back at school. Any discipline that occurred with any students was in regard to violations of policy and law, not the flags, support of Trump, shirts, or related activities. There were a few students that were encouraged to put the flags in their vehicles to prevent the potential for vandalism of the vehicles and flags.

Students that want to stand up for beliefs and engage in civil discourse are admirable. However, even with the best of intentions, there are unintended consequences that can occur and the school district will always take precautions to protect its students. SW#1 wants to be clear that not all students engaged in these activities were involved with or even aware that others threatened to or did break laws and/or rules.

The district appreciates the parents that have called and inquired about information that has been given to them. There are many parents coming to the school to watch video surveillance with their child, as the information they were given and the video evidence are contradictory. We recognize that there are always multiple sides to every story and it is essential that all sides are heard and investigated so that the truth can be discovered.

In a separate incident occurring on Friday, January 24, 2020, at the home basketball game, it was reported that there were students allegedly making homophobic slurs toward some of the male cheerleaders. This information was reported to the administrators at the end of the game and the individuals involved were not identified at this time. The district appreciates those individuals that have come forth since the game to identify alleged students involved. The incident will be taken seriously and investigations are underway. The district always takes such reports seriously, but is bound by confidentiality laws and therefore cannot release information of an investigation, consequences imposed on students, or any other confidential information. It is unfortunate that this does leave stories incomplete to many individuals, leaving room for assumptions that nothing is done about complaints. We can assure readers the district does not promote or condone this type of behavior and will take the necessary actions and steps to resolve this incident. The district wants all students to feel welcomed and safe at the school.

It has come to the district's attention that there is concern of a search that took place at RSHS. The district will not comment on these allegations and issues in order to protect all parties involved. However, complainants, witnesses, and any other individuals involved will be interviewed. The alleged incident will be fully investigated and proper steps taken in conclusion of the investigation. Law enforcement is always involved in any type of allegations of this nature. The District follows policy file JFG: interviews, interrogations, searches, and law enforcement relations. If an individual feels there has been a violation to this policy a complaint can be made to the school district.

The district recognizes the community’s preference for communicating on social media, and would like to stress that not all information is available or always accurate with this platform. SW#1 encourages individuals to call and place a complaint, express concerns, or ask questions within the district in order for any necessary investigations to occur and to ensure the district is aware. When any individual expresses any of these on social media, it is not guaranteed to come to the attention of the appropriate officials to act, but it also puts victims and the accused at risk with potential assumptions and misinformation. Often times an individual may still disagree after speaking with the district, however there is an opportunity for clarification, discovery of facts, and opportunity for questions to be answered and clarified.

Please ask questions and report concerns to your students’ teachers, school counselors, or building and district administrators. Reporting, investigating, and confronting each allegation is necessary and a priority of the district. With any reporting option, please remember to include enough information for the school to adequately investigate your concern. Please ask thorough questions from your student to gather facts and the whole story as investigations are taken seriously and take intensive time to complete. District policies, aligned to law, govern the process for investigations and consequences for substantiated incidents.

School safety, student expression, and diverse citizenship are issues on the minds of parents, students, educators, community members, and law enforcement. Most would agree, a culture of safety, assurance, and strong communication between home and school provides opportunities for students to learn on a safe campus. The outcome is for all students to be connected to the school, feel safe, and behave in a responsible and respectful manner each and every day. We recognize all students have differing needs, beliefs, and experiences. The goal is to set students up for success in acknowledging other viewpoints in a safe environment. The district does not promote or support any given political platform but rather we respect diversity and choice so that students, with discussion and guidance from their parents and guardians, can form their own ideas.

Sweetwater County School District Number One is a place for students, staff, parents, and the community. We’re proud to have your support and collaboration. It is a place for all of us."

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