NORTH BEND — The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon reached two settlements on Monday with the North Bend School District.
The settlements remove high school Principal Bill Lucero, according to a press release from the ACLU of Oregon.
However, the North Bend School District told The World on Tuesday morning that Lucero is simply being "reassigned."
"We will restructure the admin team after schools out for the 2018/2019 school year," wrote Superintendent Bill Yester in an email to The World.
As for where Lucero is being reassigned or who the new high school principal is, Yester said, "We can not answer those questions at this time."
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 release stated.
The SRO, Jason Griggs, had 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 settlements also require the district to work with the ACLU of Oregon to create policies and training to prevent future discrimination and remain under Oregon Department of Education oversight for five years.
The settlements were made on behalf of current and former North Bend High School students Liv Funk and Hailey Smith, “who suffered anti-LGBTQ harassment and discrimination from both students and staff.”
“This is a tremendous achievement for our clients and all the current and future students of North Bend,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director at the ACLU of Oregon in the press release. “It sends a clear message to everyone at the district: If you break the law by discriminating against LGBTQ students or engaging in religious proselytization at school, there are serious consequences.”
The World first reported the discrimination earlier this month, citing a letter from ODE listing findings of fact from an investigation that spanned 2016 and 2017. That investigation showed that Lucero “repeatedly failed to respond to LGBTQ students’ complaints, including when his son . . . nearly hit the couple with his car while yelling a homophobic slur.”
The World reported that once notified, the district had Lucero handle the issue as a parent. In a separate incident, a student was forced to “recite” Bible verses as punishment, “a fact that ODE confirmed was known by Superintendent Bill Yester.”
“With Mr. Lucero gone, LGBTQ students can finally come out of the shadows,” dos Santos said in the release. “It’s past time that North Bend High School make way for a more open and accepting administration.”
“I am glad that I was finally able to start positive change in this school district,” said Funk, who is graduating next month according to the ACLU of Oregon press release. “All I want is a safe learning environment for current and incoming students from any and all walks of life.”
After The World’s story was published, dos Santos told the paper in a separate interview that more stories came out of the woodwork. According to the press release, “numerous former and current students, parents, and staff contacted the ACLU of Oregon with disturbing allegations against the school.”
These allegations included a transgender boy being barred from joining the boys’ basketball team, a black student “forced to line up with his swim teammates from lightest to darkest skin color,” while another black student was “regularly subjected to racist slurs and name calling by his teammates” which included Lucero’s son, according to the ACLU of Oregon press release.
“An exchange student from Spain was awarded the ‘Best Mexican’ award by the swim team,” the release stated.
Now the district is being required by ODE 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.”
Not only this, but though Smith and Funk did not settle for monetary damages they did require for the district to make a $1,000 gift to the Q&A of Coos County, a local LGBTQ support group.
“I hope this can also bring awareness to these types of issues and can show students that they are not powerless,” Funk said in the release.
The North Bend School District released a statement to The World on Monday evening stating that it is "pleased to have reached a resolution."
"The district has been, and will continue to be, committed to improving its school environment for all students, including LGBTQ students," the statement read. "It looks forward to improving its complaint reporting procedures and staff training to prevent bullying and harassment from occurring in the first place...."
The official statement went on to say that this settlement "puts concrete processes in place to do just that, in partnership with the ACLU and the Oregon Department of Education."