NORTH BEND — The principal who allegedly forced students to recite Bible verses has been reassigned to a new job within the North Bend School District.
Former North Bend High School Principal Bill Lucero was demoted following a settlement agreement between the district and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon last month. The settlement was the result after two students revealed discrimination against LGBTQ students and another student being forced to read the Bible for punishment.
In a press release sent late Monday afternoon, the district announced that Lucero is now going to be the vice principal at the North Bend Middle School.
Replacing him at the high school is Darrell Johnston.
“Mr. Darrell Johnston, the current middle school principal, will be the principal of North Bend High School,” the release stated. “Mr. Ralph Brooks, the current middle school vice principal, will be the principal for the North Bend Middle School.”
The current vice principal at the high school, Jake Smith, will remain where he is.
The ACLU of Oregon settlement conditions had called for Lucero to be removed from the high school, stipulating that the district not reassign him to any other high school position or as the principal at the middle school.
As The World previously reported, the ACLU settlements also required the district to “ask North Bend Police Department to remove the school resource officer or provide a new officer for the role,” the ACLU of Oregon press release stated last month.
The SRO, Jason Griggs, had allegedly told one of the two students that “she was going to hell for being gay” after she reported an anti-LGBTQ assault, where another student injured her hand with a skateboard, which The World previously reported.
The World has reached out to the North Bend Police Department on multiple occasions for comment, but NBPD has not responded.
“The district is confident that these new administrative teams will be able to successfully assist the district in moving forward,” the press release from the school district said. “Our mission is navigating a successful course for every student, every day, every way.”
SAN FRANCISCO — Thousands fled their homes as major wildfires encroached on a charred area of Northern California still recovering from severe blazes in recent years, sparking concern the state may be in for another destructive series of wildfires this summer.
Severe drought has already forced officials in several western states to close national parks as precautions against wildfires and issue warnings throughout the region to prepare for the worst.
In California, officials said unusually hot weather, high winds and highly flammable vegetation turned brittle by drought helped fuel the fires that began over the weekend, the same conditions that led to the state's deadliest and most destructive fire year in 2017.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday declared a state of emergency in Lake County, where the biggest fire was raging about 120 miles (190 kilometers) north of San Francisco, a rural region particularly hard-hit by fires in recent years. The declaration will enable officials to receive more state resources to fight the fire and for recovery.
Jim Steele, an elected supervisor, said the county is impoverished and its fire-fighting equipment antiquated. He also said the county has just a few roads into and out of the region, which can hinder response time. Steele said the area has also been susceptible to fire for many decades because dense brush and trees in the sparsely populated area, but the severity of the latest blazes is unexpected.
"What's happened with the more warming climate is we get low humidity and higher winds and then when we get a fire that's worse than it's been in those 50 years," Steele said.
The fire that broke out Saturday evening has forced 3,000 residents from their homes and destroyed at least 22 buildings. It is the latest devastating blaze to rip through the isolated and impoverished county of just 65,000 people in the last few years.
In 2015, a series of fires destroyed 2,000 buildings and killed four people.
The following year, an arsonist started a fire that wiped out 300 buildings.
Last year, the county was among those ravaged by a string of fires that ripped through Northern California wine country.
"I think we're all just so traumatized and overwhelmed with all these fires year after year, this whole community is at a breaking point," said Terri Gonsalves, 55, who evacuated her home around midnight Sunday.
She put four goats into her truck after she looked out her back window and saw a big hill aflame. She is staying with her daughter in nearby Middletown, a small city where dozens of homes were destroyed in 2015. "When this stuff happens, we rally around each other."
Fire Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox said more than 230 firefighters were battling the Lake County fire in a rugged area that made it difficult to get equipment close the blaze.
A forestry scientist says it's difficult to forecast how severe California's wildfires will be this year, but said the drought-dried vegetation throughout the state is a bad omen.
"You have a lot of grass and its dry and that's cause for concern," said Keith Gilless, the dean of the University of California, Berkeley's department of environmental science.
Authorities on Monday afternoon lifted evacuation orders in Tehama County, where two wildfires were burning. Multiple homes and businesses in the city of Red Bluff were destroyed.
A Red Bluff police officer helping residents evacuate lost his home, authorities said. Red Bluff Police Lt. Matt Hansen said people had donated about $10,000 in cash along with furniture and clothing to the family as they search for a rental home.
Residents also fled a wildfire in Shasta County.
No cause has been determined for any of the fires.
Last year, California's costliest fires killed 44 people and tore through the state's wine country in October, causing an estimated $10 billion in damage.
While the weekend's blazes were the first major ones of the season to hit California, others have raged throughout the west for weeks. Earlier this month, a Colorado wildfire forced residents of more than 2,000 homes to evacuate. The last evacuees returned home last week.
The fire north of Durango was in the Four Corners Region where Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah meet — the epicenter of a large U.S. Southwest swath of exceptional drought, the worst category of drought.
Moderate to extreme drought conditions affect those four states plus parts of Nevada, California, Oregon, Oklahoma and Texas, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Associated Press writers Lorin Eleni Gill and Janie Har contributed to this story from San Francisco.
COOS BAY — The only non-religious shelter in town is coming under new management.
Bay Area First Step, which operates drug- and alcohol-free housing, is taking over the T.H.E. House on July 1. The official announcement was released earlier this month and fliers around town inform the public that there will be changes, ones that will impact the homeless community.
“... As we shift our focus to more effectively serving clients, meals will only be served to residents,” the press release states. “We will no longer be able to provide meals or food boxes to non-residents. . . We’ll work with other agencies to fill the gaps caused by our shift in focus.”
BAFS Finance Director, Patty Sanden, told The World that this change is happening because the T.H.E. House was “having trouble for a while with good management.”
“It is a difficult project to manage, and they’ve been doing their best but are to the point where they don’t want to continue,” Sanden explained. “They asked us to manage it for them with the intent to dissolve their corporation in time.”
In fact, she said some of the T.H.E. House funders asked BAFS to take a look at the program with the intent to keep it operating.
“It does fit with some of our goals to keep folks housed and get them plugged in with services,” Sanden said.
Though Sanden and the rest of BAFS isn’t sure what changes the T.H.E. House will undergo once they take over, they do know that evening meals for the homeless must be eliminated due to tight finances. The limited budget is also leading to the majority of T.H.E employees being laid off. Only two of the nine current positions are being maintained, and those spots are now open for applications.
“Unfortunately the budget doesn’t allow us to maintain all employees,” Sanden said. “We opened up for job applications for a project manager and a resident manager, so that is a significant reduction of employees and hence the need to cut back serving the general public right now. . . It is a hard thing.”
Because the homeless population in Coos County is losing its evening meals, the Devereux Center is attempting to fill the void with the recognition that it still won’t be enough.
“We’ve got people who depend on them for evening meals and meals through the weekend,” said Tara Johnson, Devereux Center director. “No one else feeds the homeless on the weekends. Desperate people do desperate things and if you’re hungry, you steal.”
The Devereux Center is now offering homeless the chance to make sandwiches on Wednesday and Friday so they can have food Thursday and over the weekend.
“They will be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because what else will keep without refrigeration?” Johnson said.
Sanden asked that the public give them at least until August to see what other changes will be done to the T.H.E. House. For now, other operations will remain the same until “we have our feet on the ground.”
COOS BAY — Coos County District Attorney Paul Frasier held a press conference on Monday to release the names of the officers involved in a fatal shooting Saturday morning in Coos Bay.
The officers are:
Coos Bay Police Officer Dan Henthorn. Henthorn was originally hired by the Coos County Sheriff's Office in 2006. In 2009, he was hired by the Coquille Police Department and in 2016, he was hired by the Coos Bay Police Department.
Officer Doug Laird of the Confederated Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Tribal Police Department. Laird was hired, initially by the Coquille Police Department in 1993. In 1994, he was hired by the North Bend Police Department. In 1997, Laird was hired by a police department in another state. In 2013, Laird returned to Coos County and was hired by the Coos County Sheriff's Office. In February 2015, Laird was hired by the Confederated Tribal Police.
Oregon State Trooper Kurtis Matthews was hired by the State Police in 2016.
Frasier said the officers are on paid administrative leave pending a review of the shooting by Frasier. The Douglas County Sheriff's Office was invited to handle the investigation into the officer-involved shooting death of Eric Sweet, following two high-speed pursuits through Coos Bay and North Bend. Both pursuits were called off for safety reasons, Frasier said.
Officers arrived at Sweet's home at 475 Johnson Ave. later that morning to find his car parked several feet from the curb with the driver's door open. Sweet later exited the house with a rifle and was ordered to drop his weapon by officers at the scene.
According to Frasier's office, Sweet pointed the rifle toward one of the officers, resulting in all three officers opening fire. Sweet died from his wounds at the scene.
Earlier that day, Sweet did stop by the Coos Bay Police Department because he thought the police were looking for him. Officers at the station told Sweet they were not looking for him and Sweet left. However, police did discover that Sweet had a suspended driver license. They made attempts to contact Sweet to tell him not to drive, according to Frasier. Police later spotted him driving Saturday morning and made an attempt to stop him and a pursuit ensued.
Coos Bay Police called off the pursuit for safety reasons. North Bend Police later spotted Sweet and also attempted to make a traffic stop. A pursuit, again ensued and it was later called off for safety reasons. Police then went to Sweet's Johnson Avenue residence to arrest him for felony eluding and driving with a suspended license and that's when the shooting occurred, according to Frasier.
The autopsy on Sweet's body is scheduled for Tuesday.