Earlier this month, reports began to circulate that discriminatory practices were taking place in Oregon’s North Bend School District.
According to Oregon daily newspaper The World, allegations of discrimination against the district included a school principle forcing an LGBT student to read the bible as punishment. The ACLU of Oregon followed up on the story, and found that LGBT students at North Bend High School “have been harassed, threatened, bullied, and assaulted just for being who they are.”
What is worse is that when these students turned to the adults in charge to protect them, the school administrators, teachers, and staff ignored their pleas for help. Instead they told one of our clients she was going to hell for being gay, subjected LGBTQ students to harsher discipline than their straight peers, and equated homosexuality with bestiality. We also learned that both LGBTQ students and straight students have been forced to recite Bible passages as a punishment.
But after former and current students Liv Funk and Hailey Smith approached a counselor with their allegations, a chain of events began that led to North Bend High School principal Bill Lucero and school resource officer Jason Griggs being fired.
In public letters written by Funk and Smith that were published by the Oregon ACLU, they say they were subject to repeated verbal and physical abuse by fellow students. When they complained to school administrators, they say they were either ignored or harassed further.
“The discrimination wasn’t an isolated incident and it didn’t just come from students,” Smith writes. “When I told the principal that my civics teacher called me out in front of the whole class and said same-sex marriage was ‘pretty much the same thing’ as marrying a dog, the principal told me ‘everybody has the right to their own opinion.’ The next day, the teacher apologized, but as I walked away, he said ‘don’t go marrying your dog.'”
From the Willamette Week:
Funk adds that she was once attacked by two classmates outside the school. The boys allegedly yelled things like “I fucking hate homos” at Funk before hitting her twice with a skateboard.
When she tried to report the incident, Funk says Griggs, the resource officer told her, “being gay was a choice, and it was against his religion.”
“He said he had homosexual friends,” she adds, “but because I was an open homosexual, I was going to hell.”
In a separate instance of reported harassment, Funk and Smith, who were dating at the time, say the principal’s son revved toward them with his car in the school parking lot and yelled slurs out the window.
“We thought he was going to hit us,” Smith writes. “Instead, he drove right up next to us, yelled out ‘faggot!’ and veered away. It was terrifying.”
In addition to the firings, the district will be required to work with the ACLU to implement training and policies aimed at preventing future discrimination.
[Friendly Atheist] Featured image via Willamette Week