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LGBTQ students in Oregon harassed and forced to read Bible

The gay and lesbian students are taunted with homophobic slurs, transgender students are pelted with food in the cafeteria and forced to read Bible as punishment
UPDATED FEB 19, 2020
(Source : Getty Images)
(Source : Getty Images)

In rural Oregon high school, the gay and lesbian students are taunted with homophobic slurs, transgender students are pelted with food in the cafeteria and when the homosexual students got into trouble the principal of the school punished the LGBTQ students by forcing them to read the Bible. 

In a recent investigative report, the students of North Bend School District mentioned allegations that the gay and lesbian high school students went through.

They endured years of harassment and bigotry from school employees, other students and a deeply religious culture that silenced their complaints.

According to NYT, two reports completed in March by an investigator in Oregon Education Department says that top officials in the North Bend had for the past two school years nursed unfriendly conditions for gay and lesbian students.

The Department of Education found “substantial evidence” of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at North Bend High School. “The department finds that discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation may have occurred,” the investigator wrote.

In schools across the country, LGBTQ students face harassment and bigotry from straight students. The case does not differ in Oregon, the activists said despite the perception of places like Portland being progressive. In department reports, the district denied that students had been mistreated and said that when they had reported cases of harassment, it resolved them promptly and appropriately.

The school officials had initially denied punishing the students by making them read Bible, however, later they admitted about the act to the investigator adding that they did not intend to promote any religion but “to assist students in understanding the effects of certain behaviors.”

North Bend’s superintendent, Bill Yester, said Wednesday that the school disagrees many of the department's findings and will present its evidence at the hearing. He said the Bible was used as punishment only once. “The district works hard every day to make sure all students feel respected and safe at school and will continue these efforts regardless of the outcome of the hearing,” Mr. Yester said.

The two female students who had dated while they were in North Bend High, came out with their story last summer. The discrimination they described was when one of the teachers told them their kissing is "disgusting", the principal’s son yelling anti-gay slurs at one of them and a school resource officer dismissing their complaints about harassment.

The officer told them that “homosexuality is a lifestyle that someone chooses and revealed that homosexuality is against the school resource officer’s personal religious beliefs,” according to reports.

The school denied most of the allegations against them and the school counselor who co-operated with the investigator said the reports of harassment were dismissed by the administrations. There is “a general lack of awareness within the local culture of how personal beliefs have interfered with identifying discrimination,” they wrote in a letter to the department.

The school counselor was dismissed and appointed at another school when the administrations found that he was working with the investigator. 

For the past three years, LGBTQ students are holding community meetings to discuss the problems and discriminations. Last fall, the gay and lesbian communities held an event in the County Museum to discuss the experiences of LGBTQ in the area. “Kids can be cruel, and it’s coddled,” said Alan Brown, a gay activist in the area who helped organize the community event, where one of the students spoke about her experiences at North Bend High School. “I experienced my own harassment growing up here.”

Rev. Israel Jurich, a pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in North Bend who helped organize the events said “It didn’t surprise me to hear the stories that these students shared,” Pastor Jurich said. “But the severity of it surprised me a little bit." Pastor Jurich said he had been helping the two students through his church. The students are not seeking monetary damages from the district, he said, but wanted North Bend officials to better train school employees and enforce its existing anti-bullying policy. “The policy is great, but it doesn’t matter if it’s not enforced,” he said.