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

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.

RUTH

Amazing how sad conditions are at many places. However perhaps things for those students and people have been slowly making progress. And why not, they are us.

Chey

I support what Liv and Hailey are doing the school is messed up. Harrassment has been a big problem in North bend high school and it shouldn't be tolerated at all but no one will do anything and this isn't ok I was bullied all threw school was told by people to kill myself that I was weird a freak I got called Satan alot due to my tattoo and music I like and all I wanted was friends to learn and be happy.

Anonymous

The fact is perverse is what it is. If truth offends you avoid it by any means necessary

Anonymous

This is absolute bullshit. I went to this school and those two girls never had a problem when I was in school with them. This is being played up a ton to get attention and I hope the principal doesn’t get fired because he helped me through one of the hardest times of my life and did everything he could to help so many students succeed and graduate.

Rev. Roland Lakey

This situation is outrageous and cannot be tolerated at any level. Students should be counseled and appropriately punished. Teachers and administrators don't get a second chance. They should be directed to seek career opportunities elsewhere. Oregon school systems are operating at an abysmal level of educational success, undoubtedly for the same reasons.

Anonymous

Harassment has been going on for years within the North Bend School District. The administrator at the high school has for years bullied students parents and staff. He runs the district and no one should And if you cross him he will seek revenge. The current superintendent was placed in that position by the high school administrator. Not only has the high school administrator benefited tremendously from his role in the district and in the school but also his children and family members have benefited. Coaches play his children or else. He has bullied staff into submission to where they retire leave. He has a bully students and parents into moving schools. And he has bullied community members into getting what he wanted. Perhaps he should be made to read the Bible especially the parts about adultery because he’s had multiple relationships within subordinance. I hope that finally he is made to answer for his treatment of so many people throughout the years his tenure with the district. There will be no change unless he is asked to leave and fres I hope that finally he is made to answer for his treatment of so many people throughout the years his tenure with the district. I am uncertain how change will come because he has hand-picked is administrators and they are at his beck and call. He will continue to have complete and total decision-making and his bullying and harassment will not stop. The students are far braver than any others because they spoke out instead of allowing him to continue to do what he has done for so long. Even as an adult I never spoke o I am uncertain how change will come because he has hand-picked is administrators and they are at his beck and call. He will continue to have complete and total decision-making and his bullying and harassment will not stop. The students are far braver than any others because they spoke out instead of allowing him to continue to do what he has done for so long. I wish them the best and that was helping them. I hope change comes.

A

Anonymous

I went to NBHS and faced the same type of treatment

Ivan Invictus

I don't buy it. This is too outlandish to be true.

Anonymous

okay "Ivan Invictus"

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