Parents Defending Education submitted a public records request to the Laramie County School District seeking any records regarding the district’s adoption of the social emotional learning (SEL) program Sources of Strength. One document PDE received was a grant application from the school district for 2022 through 2024. The grant application appeared to be for the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. The school district asked for $86,080.40 for the first year and $43,330.40 for the second year for a total $129,410.80.
The grant application specifically states that the program will target students based on their identity: “Prioritizes groups historically deprived of resources.” The district explains that the program trains students “to observe, intervene, negotiate, report and make referrals for addressing problem situations while encouraging peers to do the same.” The grant application further explains:
The program equips students with the tools they need to influence and motivate their peers in positive ways. Students are trained to use non-threatening means of communication to model positive behaviors such as help-seeking, healthy coping, and identifying trusted adults.
PDE received two contracts from the school district with Sources of Strength. One contract is signed and the other is unsigned. The signed contract is for an amount “not to exceed $107,000.” Out of this, $25,000 is for “Local Coaches Training for 50 attendees to support district-level implementation” and $82,000 is for “curriculum packets for classrooms in 29 LCSD1 Elementary schools.” The unsigned contract is similar but for an amount “not to exceed $75,750.”
PDE received a document for the approval from the district’s Board of Education dated August 2, 2022. The purpose of the approval was “to grant permission to contract with Sources of Strength for training and materials for an amount not to exceed $101,500.00 utilizing grant funding.” The document explained that the district “has been awarded a grant from Laramie County Community Partnership Prevention Grant to cover the cost of the training and materials.”
PDE received a document of the estimated cost dated August 1, 2022. This estimated cost was $101,500.
Another document had a list of trainings from August 17, 2022, to June 7, 2023. Sources of Strength provided 36 training sessions for the school district during that time.
PDE received several Sources of Strength curriculum documents. LGBTQ issues appear to be part of Sources of Strength training. In one document titled “Adult Advisor Field Guide,” Sources of Strength states: “Our Sources program partners with a variety of groups and coalitions that are focusing on different issues. (i.e. – suicide, bullying, substance abuse, dating violence, LGBTQ, etc.) We are well known.” The organization also explains that a “Peer Leader” is “a student on a Sources of Strength team who uses their story of Strength and their influence to positively impact and change school norms and culture through Strength-based messages.”
In another document titled “Trainer Manual,” Sources of Strength promotes using the preferred pronouns and names of students as “life saving.” The organization states: “The research shows that when our trans/non-binary/gender expansive students are able to use their names/pronouns at school, home, work, and with friends it reduces their risk for suicide by 65% (Russell, Pollitt, Li and Grossman, 2018). This isn’t a preference, it’s our protocol and it’s life saving prevention!” The following direction is then provided to training students designated as “Peer Leaders”:
Note that in the Peer Leader training you as the trainer can choose to share and model your own name/pronouns in your introduction and on your name tag (simply modeling the practice yourself can be a signal to transgender and non-binary youth that you acknowledge their existence and affirm their identities), even if you don’t specifically ask the Peer Leaders to share their name/pronoun (because no one volunteered to maintain the practice safely).
When choosing peer leaders, Sources of Strength states: “The Peer Leader team should reflect your school or community in terms of racial and ethnic identity, gender and sexuality, religious affiliation, grade level, socioeconomic experience etc.”
The Trevor Project is also mentioned and promoted in the document. The Trevor Project is an organization known for providing children with resources such as the “Understanding Gender Identities” guide. This resource states that “gender is actually a social construct.” The organization’s resource also appears to encourage children to question their gender and mentions the possibility of having surgery to transition:
If you decide that your current gender or sex just isn’t right, you may want to make your gender identity fit with your ideal gender expression and presentation. This is called “transitioning,” and can include social (like telling other people about which pronouns you like), legal (like changing your name, officially), or medical (like taking hormones, or having surgery). You don’t have to go through all of these things to be “officially” transgender, or to have your gender identity be valid. It’s all up to you, and what feels safe and comfortable.