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L.G.B.T. Students in Oregon Bullied and Forced to Read Bible

The North Bend School District has a lot of explaining to do.

Danielle Germain

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At North Bend High School, located in rural Oregon, gay and lesbian students students were recently harassed with homophobic slurs. Shortly following, a transgender student had food thrown at them in the cafeteria. When punished — the school’s principle assignment a specific punishment for these LGBT+ students: reading from the Bible.

School officials initially denied that students were required to read the Bible as punishment; however later investigators were told, allegations were true and that the punishment was not to promote a religion but rather “to assist students in understanding the effects of certain behaviors.” North Bend’s superintendent, Bill Yester, said the Bible was used as punishment only once.

In a recent investigative report, students stated that the North Bend School District has dealt with years of harassment and bigotry from not only other students, but school employees as well. There is a strong religious presence that has silenced many of them from speaking out.

The two reports, completed in March but only made public this month found that top officials in North Bend had for at least the last two school years — created very hostile conditions for gay and lesbian students, refused to intervene after a claim of sexual harassment and retaliated against a school counselor, who helped with the state investigation. “The department finds that discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation may have occurred,” the investigator wrote.

In the state reports, the district denied that students had been mistreated and when the cases of harassment had been reported, they said matters had been resolved “promptly and appropriately.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon has agreed to represent the students next week.

“It’s incredibly troubling that there is a school in Oregon that thinks it’s O.K. to discipline students using forced readings of the Bible,” Mat dos Santos, the chapter’s legal director, said in an interview. “It’s equally troubling that there are students who feel unsafe going to school because they identify as L.G.B.T.Q.”

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Danielle Germain (she/her/hers) is originally from Long Island, New York. She is a rising junior at The American University, majoring in Broadcast Journalism, and minoring in Political Science. She partakes in various activities on campus. Danielle is a Teacher's Assistant, the Vice President of Programming for Caribbean Circle, The Social Media Director and Web Manager for The Blackprint, Programming Coordinator for Founder's Week Committee, Senior Communications Strategist for AUSG Center for Advocacy and Student Equity or CASE, Secretary of the Junior Class Council and a Club Consultant for American University Club Council. After learning more about herself freshman year, Danielle became deeply interested in pushing diversity and inclusion forward. Since then, Danielle has started The Purpose, a bible study for students of color at AU. By creating a safe space on campus, she hopes that the voices of those who feel underrepresented are heard and also valued. In her free time, Danielle enjoys going to brunch and watching Gossip Girl. This past summer, Danielle served as the Corporate Communications Intern for Macy's Inc. Danielle has a passion for politics and a love for writing, and one day hopes to become a political commentator for CNN. She can be reached at dg0060a@student.american.edu.

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