CASPER, Wyo. — Natrona County School District Board of Trustees Vice Chair Clark Jensen said during the school board’s Monday, Feb. 22 meeting that a board policy regarding the naming of schools could potentially be fodder for “cancel culture.”
Merriam-Webster says that so-called “cancel culture,” which refers to boycotting a person or symbol, “has taken hold in recent years due to conversations prompted by #MeToo and other movements that demand greater accountability from public figures.”
The NCSD board policy states that “schools will be named after the subdivision, area, or a historical landmark in the area, if possible. Upon approval by the Board of Trustees, building equipment and/or materials may be named as a memorial to an individual who made an outstanding contributing to education in the community, state, or nation.”
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This policy has been considered “under review” within NCSD and Monday’s vote was about whether to remove this “under review” status. The policy itself is not new.
NCSD says the policy was initially adopted on April 24, 1978 before it was reviewed and readopted in 2000 and revised in 2013.
Jensen said that he didn’t understand the need for setting such a policy and that not all schools in the district are named after subdivisions, areas or historical landmarks in the area, such as Lincoln or the now-shuttered Willard Elementary.
“We’re in society that’s a little bit of a cancel culture,” he said. “I don’t want this to be an excuse to cancel naming after people that we have thought in the past are heroes of one type or another.”
Jensen said he didn’t see a need to limit the ways in which a school can be named as the policy proposes.
Board Chair Ray Catellier noted that Journey Elementary School was not named in the way that the policy outlines, but that the name was instead “student driven.”
“I just think it is an unnecessary policy,” Jensen said. “I don’t think it is needed.”
NCSD Superintendent Mike Jennings noted that the policy is currently in place, though it is in the “under review” status.
Jensen said he thought the policy should leave more flexibility in how schools can be named.
Trustee Debbie McCullar noted that the policy includes the phrase “if possible,” so she didn’t think it would really limit the district’s ability to name schools in other ways.
Trustee Dave Applegate, on the other hand, said that he thought the phrase “if possible” was problematic since he couldn’t imagine a situation in which it wouldn’t be to name a school after a subdivision, area, or a historical landmark in the area.
“I think this policy probably needs to be revised,” he said.
The board of trustees voted against removing the policy from “under review” status, which will task the board’s policy committee with giving the policy further consideration.