According to the allegations, an LGBTQ student from the North Bend School District was being forced to read Bible passages as a sort of punishment. Also, there are allegations that LGBTQ students were discriminated against after reporting sexual harassment. A March 6 letter from the Oregon Department of Education to District Superintendent Bill Yester states the details about those allegations.
The district was encouraged to reach an agreement with one of the students within 30 days of receiving the letter but an agreement was not met. These allegations will now be discussed before a hearing on May 24 in North Bend with the an Oregon Department of Education (ODE) hearings officer to decide if the North Bend School District was in compliance with both state and federal anti-discrimination laws, the World reports.
In a written statement to The World, the North Bend School District said that these alleged events occurred over the course of several years, “most of which had not been brought to the district’s attention.” “The district participated in the ODE investigation process, resulting in preliminary finding that … discrimination may have occurred,” the statement said.
These are the allegations:
- Using the Bible as punishment;
- Failure to respond to sexual harassment; and,
- Failure to take action.
Even though the district denies [using Bible reading as a punishment] in a letter sent on Aug. 23, while the investigation was ongoing, ODE stated in the March 6 letter that the building administrator contradicted that claim. In fact, he acknowledged in an interview with ODE that he required students to read the Bible for punishment. Not only that, but the building administrator’s supervisor confirmed this.
There was also substantial evidence that using the Bible as punishment had a “chilling effect on LGBTQ students’ use of the district’s complaint process.”
The district allegedly failed to respond to complaints alleging sexual harassment when those complaints were made by LGBTQ students.
On a separate occasion, Student 2 also reported that a teacher in class equated same-sex marriage to marrying a dog.
“The district administrator, human resource officer, and building supervisor all discussed the incident in the class with the classroom teacher,” the letter read. “Ultimately, the classroom teacher apologized to Student 2.”
In addition, the district’s alleged failure to take appropriate action to remedy a hostile environment after complaints had been made by LGBTQ students alleging that students and district staff had sexually harassed other students.
During the appeals investigation, ODE documented the district as it retaliated against a counselor who was advocating for these students. “These students have required quite a bit of support, but luckily they have some good family and friends,” the counselor, whose name is being withheld, said. “A lot of students who have been involved didn’t come forward or remained anonymous so it’s two main students who spearheaded the appeal. “They had the courage to do this.”
The counselor told The World that the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry is opening an investigation on what happened to him and he is requesting a letter of apology at the hearing on May 24. “I’m taking it one step at a time and filing papers to protect myself,” he said. “There was slander along the way and I want to make sure it doesn’t damage my career going forward.”
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