North Bend High School principal Bill Lucero and school resource officer Jason Griggs are being removed from their jobs in the district's settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. The firings come after complaints from former and current students, including Liv Funk and Hailey Smith, about suffering anti-LGBTQ harassment and discrimination from classmates and administration.
In the past month, Funk and Smith, North Bend High School seniors, have shared disturbing accounts of school harassment in Oregon's coastal Coos County.
The student-run legal clinic at the Willamette University College of Law first took on the girls' case. Professor Warren Binford says she then went to the ACLU for help after discovering it to be "one of the worst cases of discrimination at a school that she had ever seen in Oregon."
In public letters published on ACLU of Oregon's website, Funk and Smith say they were subject to repeated verbal, and at times physical, abuse by fellow students. When they brought these complaints to school administrators, they say they were either ignored or harassed further.
"The discrimination wasn't an isolated incident and it didn't just come from students," Smith writes. "When I told the principal that my civics teacher called me out in front of the whole class and said same-sex marriage was 'pretty much the same thing' as marrying a dog, the principal told me 'everybody has the right to their own opinion.' The next day, the teacher apologized, but as I walked away, he said 'don't go marrying your dog.'"
Funk adds that she was once attacked by two classmates outside the school. The boys allegedly yelled things like "I fucking hate homos" at Funk before hitting her twice with a skateboard.
When she tried to report the incident, Funk says Griggs, the resource officer told her, "being gay was a choice, and it was against his religion."
"He said he had homosexual friends," she adds, "but because I was an open homosexual, I was going to hell."
In a separate instance of reported harassment, Funk and Smith, who were dating at the time, say the principal's son revved toward them with his car in the school parking lot and yelled slurs out the window.
"We thought he was going to hit us," Smith writes. "Instead, he drove right up next to us, yelled out 'faggot!' and veered away. It was terrifying."
Matt dos Santos, legal director for the ACLU of Oregon, says today's settlement "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 high school, which serves just over 1,000 students, will also be required to work with the ACLU to implement training and policies aimed at preventing future discrimination.
"I am glad that I was finally able to start positive change in this school district," said Funk. "All I want is a safe learning environment for current and incoming students from any and all walks of life."
North Bend High School has been under scrutiny since April, when the ODE launched an investigation into the district's possible anti-discrimination law violations, including making students read Bible passages as punishment.
The Coos Bay newspaper, The World, first broke details of the ODE investigation. It reported last week that, on March 6, a letter was sent to District Superintendent Bill Yester outlining possible instances of discrimination.
"Discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation may have occurred," the letter read, adding, "There is substantial evidence to support the allegation that the district subjected LGBTQ students to separate or different rules of behavior, sanctions, or other treatment."
Funk and Smith, who were formally represented by ACLU of Oregon's dos Santos and Kelly Simon and Willamette University of College of Law students Corrine Allain and Patricia Stoneroad, did not seek financial compensation.
The North Bend School District did not immediately respond to WW's request for comment.