The Casper City Council is preparing to set its annual budget later this month — and Natrona County School District officials are hoping that will include money for the addition of more school resource officers.
Although the matter hasn’t yet come up for a vote, some on the City Council say they support hiring more officers to work at schools.
“It’s a huge expense when you add additional people, but I think it’s worth it,” Councilman Chris Walsh said Thursday.
Superintendent Steve Hopkins suggested at a recent school board meeting that the cost of bringing on two more officers could be split between the school district and the city. The district currently has two school resources officers who are responsible for more than 30 schools and nearly 13,000 students.
“That’s not a reasonable workload...They’re just taking calls back-to-back and they don’t have any opportunity for interaction [with students],” said Walsh, a former Casper police chief.
The measure was proposed by Councilman Dallas Laird after a Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, left 17 students and staff members dead. The incident sparked a nationwide debate regarding gun violence and school security.
Laird said Thursday that he fully supports Hopkins’ idea and would be willing to cut money from other areas to provide funding for school officers.
“I think the lives of our school children are the top priority that we have,” he said.
But the councilman added that finding the money can be more difficult than some constituents realize. Certain types of funding, such as the state-provided consensus funding being used to install new seats at the Casper Events Center, can only be directed to specified areas.
Vice Mayor Charlie Powell said he needs to discuss the matter further with officials from the police department and school district, but he agreed that it’s an issue worth exploring.
“That the school district is offering to share the cost when they are under financial pressure as well tells me it’s a serious priority for them and that it should be for us,” he said.
Between salaries and benefits, the addition of two school resource officers will cost about $180,000 annually, according to City Manager Carter Napier.
Finding the funds will be challenging, but Napier said he believes more school officers are needed and that splitting the cost with the district would be a significant help.
“That makes the conversation much more feasible,” he said.
Balancing the city’s budget has been challenging in recent years. Casper’s economy took a major hit after energy prices sank a few years ago and has yet to fully recover.
Hannah Henry, the student body president at Kelly Walsh High School, previously told the Star-Tribune that many students are concerned about school safety. The senior said she was pleased that the City Council was talking about ways to help.
“I’m excited to see that they want to become more active [with school security] and get everyone in on this together,” she said.
Students at Natrona County High School have also expressed concerns about school safety. Roughly 100 students participated in a walkout in March to show solidarity with the victims of school shootings.
There have recently been a series of threats made to schools throughout Wyoming.
Authorities arrested a teenager Wednesday near Natrona County High School roughly an hour after police responded to the school for a bomb threat. Police also arrested a student after a stolen handgun and threats led to lockouts at schools throughout the Casper area in March. Three students were taken into custody and interviewed as part of the investigation, police said. The Casper Police Department later determined that only one student made the threat.
Natrona County School District officials are currently considering a broad range of changes to better protect students and staff, including arming teachers, installing metal detectors and increasing training for school resource officers.
A group of Riverton high school students have been suspended and are facing expulsion over a January hazing or bullying incident on a school bus, the school district’s superintendent said, as various lawyers look into the incident, which occurred in Natrona County.
Fremont County School District No. 25 Superintendent said the district is waiting for a Natrona County court ruling before district officials proceed with the expulsion process. He declined to say how many students are suspended, but he previously told the Star-Tribune that three Riverton high school students were facing expulsion while a fourth faced suspension.
He said “the accused” had asked the district for the names of the victims, which the district’s school board refused to provide. The accused have since gone to court to obtain the identities, he said. It’s unclear how far advanced that process is; court documents were not available earlier this week, and a call to an attorney believed to be involved was not returned Thursday.
Simultaneously, the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office has been forwarded details of the incident. Natrona County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Aaron Shatto declined to provide details of the case because it involved juveniles, but he said law enforcement investigated it and have sent the results to District Attorney Michael Blonigen.
Blonigen was unavailable for comment Thursday.
Details of the incident remain scant. In a contentious interview with Snyder last week, Riverton radio host John Birbari referred to “sexual harassment” between male students on a bus to a wrestling trip.
Snyder declined to provide any details about the “wrestling situation” and said he would wait for the district court and the district attorney to make a determination. He had previously told the Star-Tribune the students were traveling for a school activity and that the incident could be characterized as incorporating hazing and bullying as part of an initiation.
In the radio interview, Birbari suggested the bus incident — combined with LGBT-friendly paintings inside of the high school — might have created a “cultural problem” at Riverton High.
“I think that is something that people understand, we’re not going to tolerate the behaviors that some kids have with that,” Snyder replied, apparently referring to the bus incident. “We’re going to be very firm with that. I don’t think that creates a culture. I don’t think the actions of a small number of students creates a culture, John.”
Snyder said Riverton High School’s wrestling coach has stepped down.
“He determined that because of health reasons and for the best interest of the program, that he would step down from being head coach,” Snyder said.
He said he was “not going to make a statement on that either way” when asked if the bus incident played a role in the coach resigning.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump insisted Thursday his reimbursement of a 2016 hush payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels had nothing to do with his election campaign. But the surprise revelation of the president’s payment clashed with his past statements, created new legal headaches and stunned many in the West Wing.
White House aides were blindsided when Trump’s recently added attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said Wednesday night that the president had repaid Michael Cohen for $130,000 that was given to Daniels to keep her quiet before the 2016 election about her allegations of an affair with Trump. Giuliani’s revelation, which seemed to contradict Trump’s past statements, came as the president’s newly configured outside legal team pursued his defense, apparently with zero coordination with the West Wing.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she first learned that Trump had repaid the hush money from Giuliani’s interview on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity.” Staffers’ phones began to buzz within moments. Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, who had pre-taped an interview with Fox News earlier Wednesday evening, was suddenly summoned to return for a live interview.
While Giuliani said the payment to Daniels was “going to turn out to be perfectly legal,” legal experts said the new information raised a number of questions, including whether the money represented repayment of an undisclosed loan or could be seen as reimbursement for a campaign expenditure. Either could be legally problematic.
Giuliani insisted Trump didn’t know the specifics of Cohen’s arrangement with Daniels until recently, telling “Fox & Friends” on Thursday that the president didn’t know all the details until “maybe 10 days ago.” Giuliani told The New York Times that Trump had repaid Cohen $35,000 a month “out of his personal family account” after the campaign was over. He said Cohen received $460,000 or $470,000 in all for expenses related to Trump.
But no debt to Cohen was listed on Trump’s personal financial disclosure form, which was certified on June 16, 2017. Asked if Trump had filed a fraudulent form, Sanders said: “I don’t know.”
Giuliani said the payment was not a campaign finance violation, but also acknowledged that Daniels’ hushed-up allegations could have affected the campaign, saying: “Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton.”
Questions remain about just what Trump knew and when.
Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, is seeking to be released from a non-disclosure deal she signed in the days before the 2016 election to keep her from talking about a 2006 sexual encounter she said she had with Trump. She has also filed defamation suits against Cohen and Trump.
Speaking to reporters on Air Force One several weeks ago, Trump said he did not know about the payment or where the money came from. In a phone interview with “Fox and Friends” last week, however, he appeared to muddy the waters, saying that Cohen represented him in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal.”
Sanders said Thursday that Trump “eventually learned” about the payment, but she did not offer details.
For all the controversy Giuliani stirred up, some Trump supporters said it was wise to get the payment acknowledgement out in the open.
Said former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: “You know, there’s an old saying in the law, ‘Hang a lantern on your problems.’ ... So the fact is that Rudy has to go out there now and clean it up. That’s what lawyers get hired to do.”
Daniels herself weighed in via Twitter, saying: “I don’t think Cohen is qualified to ‘clean up’ my horse’s manure. Too soon?”
Her attorney, Michael Avenatti, who engaged in his own press tour Thursday, slammed both Trump and Giuliani.
“The admissions by Mr. Giuliani as to Mr. Trump’s conduct and the acts of Mr. Cohen are directly contrary to the lies previously told to the American people,” he said. “There will ultimately be severe consequences.”
Trump is facing mounting legal threats from the Cohen-Daniels situation and the special counsel’s investigation of Russian meddling in the election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.
Cohen is facing a criminal investigation in New York, and FBI agents raided his home and office several weeks ago seeking records about the Daniels nondisclosure agreement. Giuliani has warned Trump that he fears Cohen, the president’s longtime personal attorney, will “flip,” bending in the face of a potential prison sentence, and he has urged Trump to cut off communications with him, according to a person close to Giuliani.
The president’s self-proclaimed legal fixer has been surprised and concerned by Trump’s recent stance toward him, according to a Cohen confidant. Cohen was dismayed to hear Trump marginalize his role during an interview last week with “Fox & Friends” and interpreted a recent negative National Enquirer cover story as a warning shot from a publication that has long been cozy with Trump, said the person who was not authorized to talk about private conversations and spoke only on condition of anonymity. Cohen also had not indicated to friends that Trump’s legal team was going to contradict his original claim that he was not reimbursed for the payment to Daniels.
Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and U.S. attorney, joined Trump’s legal team last month. He told CNN on Thursday that the announcement of Trump’s repayment of the hush money was a planned strategy, saying: “You won’t see daylight between me and the president.” He was quickly backed up by Trump, who said on Twitter that he had repaid Cohen.
A Riverton radio host and former state GOP operative asked a Fremont County superintendent if his high school was promoting the “destructive lifestyle” of homosexuality, comments that the educator would later call offensive.
John Birbari, who hosts the Morning Buzz on KVOW 1450 AM in Riverton, interviewed Fremont County School District No. 25 Superintendent Terry Snyder on April 25. A recording of the interview obtained by the Star-Tribune begins shortly before the discussion turns to homosexuality.
In the interview, Birbari claimed that “all the facts” point to the destructive nature of homosexuality, which — he said — leads to increased rates of suicide and disease. Snyder pushed back on Birbari’s assertions, calling them dated.
It’s unclear if Birbari has faced any consequences for his comments. The Wind River News Network general manager refused to comment and threatened “litigation” if she was quoted. A Fremont County news blog reported that he was suspended, but the article was later taken down. A second news organization also reported Birbari was suspended. A listener told the Star-Tribune that Birbari has been off of the air since April 26.
After declining to comment, the general manager, Valorie Mayo, said that “everything that was going on is totally sensationalized” and that it was a non-issue.
Birbari — who is a former chairman of the Fremont County Republican Party — asked Snyder about paintings inside Riverton High School. One is a rainbow flag with “LGBTQ+” written over it in white letters, with “love is love” written beneath it, all of which are symbols associated with the gay rights movement. The host said he received an email about the paintings. Snyder said he didn’t know about them.
“I thought this email went to the school board,” Birbari said. “Anyway, do you think that the Riverton High School should be promoting homosexuality?”
Snyder said that the district and its schools had a tolerance for differences, even if not everyone agreed with those differences.
“You know there are certain diverse elements of individuals that are certainly fine,” Birbari said, “but the homosexual lifestyle has been demonstrated to be highly destructive.”
He cited what he called scientific evidence supporting his claim, like that there are higher suicide rates among members of the LGBT community. Several studies have shown that this trend can partially be attributed to a person’s social environment. A May 2011 study in the American Academy of Pediatrics found that “a more supportive social environment was significantly associated with fewer suicide attempts” among the LGBT population.
Birbari also said gay men are more likely to contract diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said gay and bisexual men are at greater risk. But the agency added that “homophobia, stigma and discrimination can negatively influence the health of gay and bisexual men.”
Snyder replied that the district would not discriminate against “those classes” and that to do so would be a civil rights violation. Birbari interjected to say that gay rights were not protected under the Civil Rights Act and to discriminate against them “is not a violation.”
A federal court in New York recently ruled that the act, which doesn’t explicitly mention sexual orientation, still covers members of the LGBT community. Another federal court ruled similarly, while an Alabama court said the act did not cover sexual orientation discrimination.
Birbari told Snyder he was concerned about “the kids because this is a very destructive lifestyle.” He then asked Snyder whether he had known any “homosexuals.” Snyder replied “absolutely.” Birbari said he had, too, and “all but one case have come to very tragic ends.” The outlier, Birbari continued, had “turned his back” on the “lifestyle” and returned to his family.
He told Snyder that he was concerned that there was a “cultural problem in our schools.”
“It’s not just a simple viable alternative,” he said. “All of the facts rail against that idea.”
“John, well, you’ve portrayed your opinions, and I think maybe some dated opinions,” Snyder replied. “I do know individuals that have a different sexual orientation. Hardworking, quality of life. They don’t all die because of AIDS, John — “
“Not now,” Birbari interjected.
“And so to portray that as that, I don’t think that’s an accurate description,” Snyder continued.
“For you to paint them, that they are the evil of society, I don’t believe that’s fair,” he said.
“Did I say that?” Birbari said.
“You came pretty close to it, John.”
“But I didn’t say that.”
Birbari then said that if being gay wasn’t destructive “to individuals, to families and to societies,” then “why does our moral code, the Bible, forbid it?”
Snyder told him that it was the district’s responsibility to educate all students.
“We can’t use our personal beliefs about individuals to determine what education they’re going to get,” he said. “So that’s that. We’re going to continue on.”
In an email sent to district staff after the interview, Snyder said he was “offended by and caught off guard by” Birbari’s statements.
Reached Thursday, Snyder declined to comment beyond saying that he stood by the positions he voiced on air. Multiple messages left for Birbari and station manager Jim McGilvray were not returned.
Snyder declined to say if he’d heard of any punishment. An article on County10, a news blog in Fremont County, said that he was suspended, but Mayo, the general manager, said the story was inaccurate. She refused to comment on any disciplinary action faced by Birbari.
Mayo told WyoFile, an online news organization, that Birbari had been suspended “kind of” indefinitely, and that his views did not reflect the views of the station.
The County10 article is no longer available on the publication’s website. Jason Kintzler, the CEO of Pitch Engine, said the article was accidentally published and that editors had decided to pull it because they didn’t have “enough meat really on the bone yet to do a story.” He said the decision wasn’t motivated by political or public pressure.
A Fremont County resident said Birbari was back on his show the day after the incident and opened it by talking about the Snyder interview. But he has since been off-air, the source said.