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Education
Schools take on bullying
October is National Bullying Prevention Month and local school districts talk about how they handle the problem

COOS COUNTY – October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a problem faced by schools nationwide.

In a school of over 1,000 students, Marshfield High School reports only 20 to 25 bullying complaints every year. However, Vice Principal Eli Ashton is concerned about the cases not being reported.

Last year, Ashton put the Coos Bay School District’s bullying and harassment complaint sheet online for easier access. This way students can fill it out and send it in from their phones and remain more anonymous than if they had to walk into Ashton’s office to pick up a copy.

“Even though they would have stayed anonymous by asking for a complaint form, we still kind of knew because they came in,” Ashton said. “Since adapting it online, kids have been more willing to use it.”

Since putting it on the school website, last year 80 percent of bullying complaints came in through the online form.

So far this year, there have only been two bullying complaints.

“But right now is still the honeymoon phase for students, who are all still getting used to each other, so the complaints will come farther into the year,” Ashton said.

The majority of the complaints stem from conflicts that don’t always fall under bullying. According to Ashton, often students get into a conflict on social media and one of the kids goes too far.

“They don’t see how it began, but rather focus on that one incident so they describe that as bullying but it’s just a conflict that actually started months ago,” Ashton said. “One great thing about social media is we have all the information there so we can track it.”

However social media poses more problems than advantages for school districts when it comes to bullying. Last year, Marshfield administrators discovered a website called MHSsexlives where false stories were being posted about other students.

Ashton got in touch with Twitter to help take it down, and though he has had trouble getting their help in the past for more minor bullying issues, the company stepped in.

“Often it’s hard to get businesses to acknowledge that it’s ridiculous and disgusting and derogatory toward kids,” Ashton said. “That time Twitter was nice enough to take it off, but I would say the majority of issues when it comes to bullying are caused by fake webpages or accounts where we don’t know which student created them. That’s when it becomes difficult to solve because we don’t have the technology to figure out who is behind creating these things. That’s when working with companies like Twitter and Instagram comes in.”

Not only that, but when it comes to social media, school districts run into freedom of speech that sometimes protects what students are writing.

“I do worry about our unreported cases,” Ashton added. “Our eighth graders are new to campus and don’t know who to talk to, so it is common where those cases don’t get reported right away, which is why we see a spike in November and December. By then those students know who I am and are familiarized with the staff to report this stuff.”

Not only that but the younger students don’t see passing comments as bad, not realizing that those often turn into bigger issues.

“We find out about it when it’s big rather than when it’s smaller and easier to handle,” Ashton said.

During each year’s eighth grade orientation, Ashton introduces students to the school resource officer and talks about the difference between bullying and conflicts. He hopes to bring more light on the problem in October to go along with the National Bullying Prevention Month.

“It is underreported,” he said. “I think the 20 to 25 isn’t accurate.”

At North Bend High School, administration is strict when it comes to bullying and harassment. Though Principal Bill Lucero didn’t have the amount of reported cases with him during an interview with The World, he credited the low number to great students and high standards.

“Hazing, bullying and harassment is not a light matter,” Lucero said. “If you don’t follow the rules, you don’t go to our school.”

In the school handbook, the consequences for being involved in a harassment or bullying situation can lead to expulsion.

The first offense means students involved sit down to discuss the situation and try to resolve the problem. The second offense can lead to at least two In-School-Suspensions, depending on severity. The third offense means a five-day suspension.

The fourth offense is recommendation for expulsion.

“If you stand in the hall you will watch 800 kids smiling,” Lucero said. “It’s not perfect but is a great place for kids to be. I think because we are so strict, it creates a better culture and makes kids comfortable. It might not be cool to say they want administration and staff to be strict, but it makes them feel safe.”


News
Coos Bay man fined for illegal dumping

COOS COUNTY — The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has fined Willy Joe Jenkins $25,393 for illegally disposing of household garbage, used appliances, demolition debris, tires and other waste at his 2-acre property in Coos County. 

The property is located at 62678 Seven Devils Road, Coos Bay.

However, Jenkins, 43, formerly of Bandon, is incarcerated at the Snake River Correctional Institute in Ontario, where he is serving a five-year sentence after being convicted in Coos County in 2015 on crimes related to illegal possession of firearms and methamphetamine possession.

A letter was sent by DEQ to Jenkins — at his Ontario address — on Sept. 15, informing him that inspectors had found about 250 cubic yards of waste on the property, which is not permitted to be used as a solid waste facility. It is illegal to dispose of solid waste anywhere except at a permitted disposal facility. Illegal dumps can pollute ground and surface water. Such dumps can also threaten human health by attracting insects and rodents, said Katherine Benenati, DEQ public affairs specialist in the Eugene office.

Benenati said the waste includes furniture and at least two boats and covers an entire hillside on the property, which Jenkins still owns.

Jenkins had until Oct. 7 to appeal the penalty, which he has done, according to Benenati. Respondents have 20 days from the time they receive the letter to file an appeal.

"Incarceration doesn't prevent someone from paying a civil penalty or from appealing such a penalty," Benenati said.

The DEQ initially investigated because it received a confidential complaint about the property.

"We often learn of sites like these, particularly if the area is remote, from complaints," Benenati said. "DEQ inspectors are also in the field quite a bit, so if they were to see something like this could take appropriate action."

DEQ inspected the property on Oct. 2, 2014 and again on Feb. 19, 2016. Both times, inspectors witnessed the discarded material. On Nov. 26, 2014, DEQ sent Jenkins a warning letter with an opportunity to correct, citing the violation and giving Jenkins an opportunity to properly dispose of the solid waste without a penalty. 

In addition, on March 30, 2017, DEQ sent Jenkins a pre-enforcement civil penalty notice, again citing the violation and requesting that he dispose of the solid waste by July 28, 2017.

Despite the letters from DEQ, Jenkins failed to bring the property into compliance.

Of the penalty, $24,393 represents the economic benefit Jenkins gained by failing to remove the waste and dispose of it at a permitted facility. The approximate dollar value of the benefit gained is designed to "level the playing field" by taking away any economic advantage the entity gained and to deter potential violators from deciding it's cheaper to violate and pay the penalty than to pay the costs of compliance.

It would have cost Jenkins $20,351 to properly dispose of the trash, according to the DEQ.


Coquille resident crowned Miss Oregon USA

COQUILLE – Saying she was “just so grateful,” Coquille resident Toneata Morgan was chosen Sunday afternoon to represent Oregon at the Miss USA pageant.

Competing as Miss Sunset Bay, Morgan was crowned out of 19 contestants from around the state. at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.

At the same pageant, Jaycie Forrester, 16, of Tualatin was crowned Miss Oregon Teen USA 2018, with 11 other girls competing.

“I’m on Cloud 9,” Morgan said Monday. “Today has been quite the whirlwind and it still hasn’t quite hit me. When it happened, I couldn’t stop crying. You hear the phrase, ‘don’t give up on your dream.’ I’ve always wanted to go to the Miss USA pageant, but was about to give up.”

Morgan is in her senior year at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, but has family ties to Coquille and has lived there off and on this past year with her grandmother.

She can trace her family roots to Oregon's original settlers in the 1850s, from proud dairy farmers, loggers and fishermen. Many of the family lived in the Coos Bay area.

Her favorite place to go in Coos County is Sunset Bay in Charleston, where she and her aunt used to spend time at the beach, kayaking and hiking.

Sadly, her aunt, Estella Morgan, who worked for the Bureau of Land Management in Coos Bay, was killed in 2014 in a tragic logging accident while on the job.

“I’d like to pay tribute to my Aunt Estella,” Morgan said. “I kind of felt like she was there on Sunday.”

A former Miss Malibu Teen USA 2014, Morgan, 21, will graduate in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in communications, and a minor in film and television studies.

Morgan has many awards and honors, including being on the dean’s list at her university, in the top 15 percent of her high school class and winner of the 2014 VFW Voice of Democracy Speech Competition in Ventura County.

A busy actress and model, she can be seen in several popular reality TV series, including "Beauty and the Geek Australia," "Growing Up Hip Hop," and "Master P’s Family Empire."

She also has a passion for helping others. Her platform for the Miss Oregon USA competition was close to her heart – Wounded Warriors and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Her grandfather, a Korean War veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart for his service, passed away when she was young.

Another issue she is passionate about is cyberbullying.

“I dealt with it at a young age and I think that’s an issue that should be more out there,” Morgan said.

Morgan works with the Cyber Smile Foundation and the Be Kind Campaign.

“Almost every girl has experienced bullying,” Morgan said. “One thing I love about the pageant is that it’s not catty or superficial at all. I’ve made so many friends and they’ve all been so kind and supportive. It’s extremely refreshing and I’m so thankful.”

As a high school student, Morgan was a victim of cyberbullying. When she worked on a TV show called “Growing Up Hip Hop,” she started receiving messages that she described as “so mean.”

“It affected my self-esteem for a while then I realized there will always be critical people who will make you want to feel bad about yourself and I want to remind people to be kinder to each other and before they send something, to really think about it and ask, ‘Would you say that in person?’”

Morgan is also an entrepreneur, as CEO and designer for All Legs, her active wear company on a mission to empower women by helping them feel beautiful while getting stronger and more confident.

“I’ve been super focused on my business,” she said. “I started it eight months to a year ago and I have really cute styles. My mom helped me out with it a lot and it really got cool when I saw girls wearing my clothes. I’m really excited to see where it grows and expands.”

Morgan’s creations can be seen at www.alllegsshop.net.

Another dream of the new Miss Oregon USA is to one day have her own talk show, Oprah style.

“I think it would be great to be able to influence and be a voice for people,” she said.

But right now, she is studying for mid-terms next week and planning to finish her last two semesters of college before she and Forrester compete in the Miss USA and Miss USA Teen pageant.

The Miss Oregon USA is part of the Miss Universe Organization. The winner of Miss Oregon USA goes on to compete at Miss USA, which is televised on FOX.

The Miss Oregon USA is not related to the Miss Coos County Scholarship Pageant or the Miss Oregon Scholarship Pageant, although many contestants have competed in both, according to Miss Oregon USA organizers.

The date and location of the pageants still are to be announced. The pageant was owned by President Donald Trump from 1996 to 2015, when it was broadcast by NBC. The pageant was sold to WME/IMG and Fox Broadcasting now owns the broadcast rights.

Between now and next May, Morgan will make several appearances locally and around Oregon as Miss Oregon USA.

“It’s really such an honor to represent Oregon,” Morgan said. “I’m really excited for this opportunity to represent our state, to hopefully be the first Miss Oregon USA to be crowned Miss USA and compete for the title of Miss Universe.”