NORTH BEND, Ore. -- Allegations of discrimination of students by the North Bend School District are causing a stir in the school and community.
As detailed in a letter from the Oregon Department of Education to the school district on March 6, the district is being accused of disregarding discrimination claims by students, and forcing LGBTQ students to read passages from the bible as a form of punishment.
Those instances of discrimination include students being called homophobic slurs, an LGBTQ-identifying student having their hand broken after being called a homophobic slur, and a teacher likening same-sex marriage to marrying a dog in front of a classroom full of students.
That teacher was later told to apologize to the students.
While interviewing students for this story, the high school secretary came up and joined in on the conversation.
“I’ll go to bat for you right down to the wire. I’ll lay down for any student that I feel is given, being unfairly treated, and we’ll go together. Had we known different things, we could do that,” said Secretary Corky Clark.
Student Brittany Vickoren responded by talking about the biggest issues she is seeing around the school.
“And I don’t feel like it’s just one person. Of course it’s not just one person. And it’s not the whole school that doesn’t care. But, there are teachers and there are staff that have chosen to take a different approach to things, like discriminate against students, and do different things, and ignore students when they have come with complaints," said Vickoren. "Of course it’s not every single person and it’s not just one person, but there are people who don’t feel like these students need help and they don’t feel it’s important to help these students. But, it really is. And it’s important to the whole community and the whole student body when teachers show that they don’t care. It makes students uncomfortable to be on their campus.”
Clark agreed, saying she wants to help these students make the change they feel needs to happen.
“And we need to make a change. And I think that by you speaking out, then that’s something that we can do about that. If we know for sure that that’s how you feel and what’s going on and stuff, then we need to keep bringing it up and bringing it up, bringing it up, until we get it done.”
Along with the issues of alleged discrimination in the letter from the Department of Education, students told the department that they were hesitant to come forward about their issues because of the school administrator’s religious beliefs.
They said they had been told of an incident where a student was forced to read the bible as a form of punishment.
The school district has acknowledged that issue, and in a press release stated they have taken corrective action.
The North Bend School District was instructed by the Department of Education to come to a settlement between them and the two students that made the accusations, but were unable to do so in the 30 day time period given.
As a result, the Oregon Department of Education will be holding a hearing with the North Bend School District on May 24 to determine if the school district did allow discrimination on the high school’s campus.