The North Bend School District of Oregon, located in the center of the state’s oceanic coastline, is facing multiple allegations of ignoring harassment of LGBT high school students, including the forcing of an LGBTQ student to read the Bible as punishment and retaliating against a school counselor who advocated on behalf of LGBTQ students by reporting harassment.
A letter from the Oregon Department of Education addressed to North Bend School District Superintendent Bill Yester says a student at a unnamed school was forced to read the Bible by a building administrator who chose the punishment particularly because the student identifies as LGBTQ.
Though the school district initially denied the allegation, the high school building’s administrator and the administrator’s supervisor both confirmed the administrator requires students to read the Bible as punishment.
“There is substantial evidence to support the allegation that the district subjected LGBTQ students to separate or different rules of behavior, sanctions or other treatment,” the letter reads. It further states that use of the Bible as punishment had a “chilling effect on LGBTQ students’ use of the district’s complaint process.”
The district reportedly told the publication The World that the problem was dealt with internally and “the district stated that ‘it took corrective action to ensure that it won’t happen again,’” however no further details of the corrective action were released.
A public school using the Bible as punishment would potentially violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.”
In addition to this allegation, the letter also says the building administrator’s child (also a student at the high school) called two LGBTQ students holding hands in the student parking lot “faggots.” (The administrator was told to “discuss the matter” with their child.) One LGBTQ student also said a teacher compared same-sex marriage to marrying a dog, though the teacher later apologized to the student for the comment.
Most damning, the letter says the school administrator harassed a counselor who contacted the Oregon Department of Education in support of these students.
The counselor says the administrator called their supervisor to ask why they were getting involved and then subsequently “had all of his resources removed at the high school” (including his room) and was later fired.
A hearing about these claims is scheduled for May 24. At the hearing the Oregon Department of Education will determine whether the district has repeatedly failed to properly address LGBT harassment at the school.