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Education

NORTH BEND — The training required by the settlement struck between the North Bend School District and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon is now finished for the year.

Of course, the training will be reviewed every year.

The settlement from May of 2018 was the result of former North Bend High School Principal Bill Lucero using the Bible as punishment on a student, as well as other allegations surrounding inaction to support LGBTQ students.

As The World reported last year, “Now the district is being required by (Oregon Department of Education) to hire an ‘expert to review their policies for handling discrimination and harassment reports,’ as well as to create a Diversity and Inclusion Committee to hold celebrations at the high school for 'Coming Out Day, Ally Week, and issue an annual diversity award.'"

In an interview with North Bend High School Principal Darrell Johnston, that training finished last week with a sexual discrimination review. This included large components of PACE, which is the legal entity assisting school districts in supporting transgender students.

“There was a slide that said if any staff didn’t respect and use appropriate pronouns, they have been disciplined and have been terminated,” Johnston said. “It reminded staff that there is no debate when it comes to treating all children with respect.”

In November, all of the high school staff and district administration to use proper language, including correct pronouns and vocabulary that supports all students.

“Since starting the year and the trainings, the staff that are here have been positive,” Johnston said. “It’s a very clear standard that the district has set to treat children with respect and to follow the training protocols from the settlement.”

Though NBHS has had a Gay-Straight Alliance Club previously, the club wasn't around last year since it lacked a sponsor. However, it was back on track for 2018-2019.

Johnston provided a quote from one of the GSA students, who said, “You can always tell when some people aren’t accepting, but they don’t say anything.”

Johnston said that the student feels those people are now even less vocal, but didn't know if it was from changes made this year or not.

“We do have a large group of students who always felt supported but there’s always room to improve,” Johnston said.

The GSA Club has district approval to remodel a bathroom to make a single, safe-use bathroom for students. The room was once an older staff bathroom used as a utility room, but will be retiled and students will paint it over spring break. According to Johnston, the district decided to upgrade it and spend $8,000 to help make it look decent, safe and welcoming.

Otherwise, Johnston said the settlement's Diversity and Inclusion Committee continues to meet monthly. This group, led by Vice Principal Jake Smith, are also addressing additional issues for the school’s improvement process.

The group has created a “diversity award,” but have not written smart goals yet. Johnston said those will be published in August.

“There’s been incredible support from the previous administration and the district this year,” Johnston said. “Everyone came together to address every issue and move forward to fulfill our mission for our kids, every student, every way.”

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.

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