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

I'd like you to be in a closet.

Anonymous

omg that made me laugh so hard and its true, keep it at home

Anonymous

Before supporting people look into the history of those who you put all over social media and the school you attack

Johan Baumeister

Ah. So they deserve to be harassed and discriminated against then? They deserve to have their constitutional rights violated?

You know what's worth less than dog poo? The words of a coward too afraid to put their name on nebulous (and almost certainly false) accusations that these young people are morally questionable...

Anonymous

I don’t want this to happen to my school at all I think it’s not fair that they are not being treated the way they should be they should make a change or the students should be protesting out in the streets to make that change and together we can make it as a team so we can all come together and be strong and powerful and no one can stop us

Anonymous

this is horrible! this is exactly why kids are afraid to be gay and come out of the closet.

Anonymous

This is so bs, I speak for myself and many that go to this school that the admins are very supportive and the students even more, we all have enemies in high school and they think everyone should be their friend, need flash not gonna happen. There’s two sides to this story, not just theirs

Dr. Timothy Leary

The ACLU censored my previous comment and I don't see what was so offensive about it.

Alan

Liv and Hailey, Good luck with your fight, for you and all the students perceived as different that will follow in your school. You all deserve a safe place to learn.

Anonymous

As the parent of four NBHS grads, I am embarrassed and ashamed of the "Things are fine, get over it!" attitude displayed here and elsewhere. Bullying by these two administrators, Bill Lucero and Bill Yester, has been going on for many years. My own children were bullied, lied to, and harassed and they are not LBGT. I cannot imagine the pain caused to these LBGT students. Lucero should discipline his own hate mongering son before he gets on anyone else's case.

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