A major settlement in Oregon could have national implications for any student who is made to feel unwelcome or unsafe at school. The school in question is North Bend High School, run by Principal Bill Lucero, and after years of anti-LGBT abuse by students and staff, the state is finally intervening to stop the problem once and for all.
The details of the case are particularly egregious. Two students, Liv Funk and Hailey Smith, began dating about two years ago and were immediately targeted by students and staff. Sometimes the harassment was relatively minor — slurs directed at them by other students — but at other times they feared for their safety.
On one occasion, the principal’s son threatened to run them over with his car. Funk was assaulted in a bathroom. Another time, a teacher singled out queer students and told them that same-sex marriage is akin to marrying an animal.
When told about what was happening, the principal turned a blind eye and took no action. This was the same principal who had once forced a student to read Bible passages when he found out that student was bisexual.
The violence quickly escalated, with Funk beaten by two boys who were yelling anti-LGBT slurs.
Again, the victimized students turned to school officials for help, but were told that they had brought the violence on themselves by being openly queer.
Eventually, the students reached out for help to groups outside the school and the ACLU got involved. They pressured the state education department to investigated, and after a lengthy inquiry, a settlement has been reached.
Among the terms: the abusive principal, Bill Lucero, will be removed from his job. What’s more, a resource officer named Jason Griggs will also lose his job after he was found to have told students that they would go to hell for being gay. With any luck, neither of these dangerous men will be allowed near children ever again.
Further, the school district is required to work with the ACLU to develop policies and training to prevent future harm to students, and will be subject to state monitoring for the next five years. The school will also have to mark Coming Out Day and Ally Week, issue annual diversity awards and donate $1,000 to a local LGBT group.
The settlement will benefit countless people, far beyond just the two brave students who brought attention to the abuses. Other students at the school have been emboldened to come forward with details of discrimination, including racist abuse by various athletes and by Bill Lucero’s unpleasant son.
And beyond this one community, the ruling sends a powerful message to other school districts around the country: school officials have a responsibility to end anti-LGBT harassment. Failure to do so — or even worse, contributing to that harassment — means they will lose their jobs.
As they should.
Have you experienced bullying from educators like Bill Lucero’s staff at North Bend High School? Let us know your stories in the comments.
Featured image of Hailey Smith and Liv Funk by Doug Brown/ACLU of Oregon