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Judge to view report on offensive school flyers in Wyoming

MGN Online

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A judge will privately review a school district's report on racist and homophobic flyers posted at a Wyoming junior high school as he considers a news media lawsuit seeking the report's public release.

News outlets including the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and The Associated Press had asked Laramie County District Judge Peter Froehlicher to review the document. The judge granted the request at a Friday hearing in the news organizations' lawsuit against Laramie County School District No. 1.

Froehlicher also will also look at a version to be submitted by the school district, with certain information blacked out because school officials assert it must be kept confidential.

Froehlicher denied the news outlets' request to order the document's immediate release.

The flyers posted by at least one student at McCormick Junior High School in Cheyenne in March 2019, read "Join the KKK" and "It's not OK to be gay." Some parents and students said the school had a history of racist and anti-gay behavior that continued even after the revelation about the flyers caused a public outcry.

The district held community meetings, developed a response plan and hired an employee dedicated to facilitating student diversity in response.

They've released only a short summary of a report on an investigation into the flyers and their aftermath, however, saying that releasing the full report would discourage students and employees from cooperating with future investigations.

"It's common sense that you feel more free to come forward when there isn't the threat of this information getting out there," an attorney for the district, O'Kelley Pearson, told Froehlicher.

The report also contains information protected by attorney-client privilege and details otherwise shielded from disclosure by law, Pearson argued.

Just because school district attorneys used the report to advise school officials doesn't mean the district can claim the report is subject to attorney-client privilege, an attorney for the news outlets, Bruce Moats, told the judge.

"We just don't think it applies here," Moats said. "I'm concerned there's always attorney advice."

The summary, which stated that "some harassment" occurred and complaints were "not always" handled correctly, is too vague to have much public value compared to the full report, Moats argued.

"What does that mean? Once? Twice? One hundred times?" Moats asked.

Froehlicher said he hoped to rule on the news organizations' motion to release the document within a month.

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