LGBT Students Face Heartbreaking Treatment at an Oregon High School

Liv and Hailey, students at North Bend High School

Last month, a professor at Willamette University College of Law reached out to our office for help on a case her student-run legal clinic had been working on. It was, Professor Warren Binford said, one of the worst cases of discrimination at a school that she had ever seen in Oregon. In our job, we hear a lot of awful and heartbreaking cases, but the cruel treatment of LGBTQ students at North Bend High School shocked us.

LGBTQ students at the rural school on the Oregon coast 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.

This is wrong on so many levels. The law specifically protects young LGBTQ people in school from bullying and being punished more harshly than their straight peers. Public schools aren’t allowed to force students to read the Bible for punishment or any other reason. That the school needed the Oregon Department of Education to step in to stop such clear violations of the law is astounding.

Two brave young women, Liv and Hailey, have been fighting to change their school. With the help of a friendly school counselor and Willamette Law’s legal clinic, they took their case to the Oregon Department of Education. The agency conducted a months-long investigation and found substantial evidence of discrimination and other violations of state and federal law. 

Details of the cases were leaked to the local paper, and the school district has tried to downplay what happened. We have heard from a number of other current and former students, teachers, and other district staff who witnessed or were subjected to this kind of mistreatment at North Bend High School. Most of them are still too afraid of the current administration to come forward with their complaints.

Liv and Hailey have asked for serious changes at the school. For them, policy on paper isn’t enough if it isn’t enforced, and they want to make sure that other students will not have to face discrimination at school again. The school refused to make the changes, so, with our help, Liv and Hailey are continuing to pursue their case. Next week, there will be a hearing in their case, and we will represent them. Liv and Hailey will ask the state Education Department to affirm its finding of substantial evidence of discrimination and demand that North Bend high school administrators be held accountable.

It is clear that the school is not doing its job of protecting and treating all students fairly. Every kid deserves to have a safe and welcoming school, no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity, race or ethnicity, disability, or religious beliefs. Whether you live in a big city or a small town, the law and the Constitution protect the right to an education free from discrimination. 

If you or anyone you know has experienced discrimination or mistreatment at a public school in Oregon, please reach out to us. 

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Anonymous

It’s the young people who will “save” America.

Jennifer

Good for these students! They’re standing up for themselves and others via the proper channels and means.

Paen

Good for those kids who have the guts to stand up to those incredibly stupid bigots.

Mike Hausenfluck

As a teacher, I find the behavior of the administration at North Bend High School appalling and unforgivable. Anyone involved with creating this intolerant environment should be fired and barred from ever working again in a public school.

Anonymous

Alleged behavior. As a teacher I'm sure you also know that the school can't gve its side of the story except while testifying in a court of law and the media and lawyers take full advantage of that.

Anonymous

Outside of the large cities, the entire United States is like this. Don't let Portland, Seattle and San Fransisco fool you; the west coast is just as stupidly conservative as everywhere else. There's just enough people in the large cities out there to counter the stupid through the rest of the state.

Anonymous

North Bend School District serves a primarily urban population, with a small number of students from areas outside the city limits.

Anonymous

We pulled both my younger kids from Marshfield when they were bullied by faculty and students. The final event was my daughters PE teacher yelling and bullying her to continue weight lifting after dislocating her knee in class. Once free of the toxic school environment they went on to score the top grades in the state on their GED

Anonymous

This is the programming of minds by the non-christian Evangelicals, a political back party run by bannon, erik prince, the prince & deVos families, who get emotionally needy people to pray for the end of the world, and forced don to bring US Embassy for Israel because these phony evangelicals that has to happen before the end of the world and all jews must return to Israel,none of this BS is in any standard bible but is in the fiction series "Left Behind" and its cohort writing;then the Evangelicals believe they will rule the world with the low level intelligence and theocratic schools that will be the equivalent of sharia law only written by the wacked out evangelicals. Science has shown time and again being born LGBT IS A RANDOM EVENT THAT OCCURS THROUGHOUT ALL OF NATURE, YOU ARE BORN PROGRAMMED THIS WAY, IT IS NOT A LIFESTYLE CHOICE AS PHONY CHRISTIANS CLAIM. What will happen when one of these fake christians has their own LGBT child or grandchild. I am afraid to think of it.

Anonymous

Abuse has been happening at a number of schools for a long time but the authority of the instructor is just as absolute as that of a police officer. It extends to far more than just the LGBTQ students. When an investigation is requested, other students are never questioned. Only the opinion of the instructor matters. At Chemeketa community college I was suspended from a classroom for leaving the classroom after an instructor lashed out. I brrought this behavior to the attention of the accreditation committee and the retaliation was swift and complete. I was suspended from the school for a year and asked not to return, ever. These issues are system in our culture here in Oregon. These issues represent a legacy of a state that began as a whites only state, a state that is 50th in the nation for the number of mental health providers per capita.

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