Students accused an Oregon school district of discriminating against LGBT students by forcing them to read the Bible as a form of punishment.
The allegations, detailed in a March 6 letter to North Bend School District Superintendent Bill Yester from the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), include an LGBT student being forced to read the Bible and discrimination against LGBT students who reported sexual harassment, according to The Associated Press. An ODE investigation into the allegations concluded they may be true. (RELATED: Left Cries Foul Over Christian School’s Right To Vouchers)
“In conclusion, the department finds that discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation may have occurred,” ODE Complaint and Appeals Coordinator Mark Mayer wrote, according to The World.
The letter from ODE cites allegations from unnamed LGBT students — one of whom claimed district staff singled out LGBT students by forcing them to read the Bible as punishment. School officials initially denied that allegation but later confirmed certain staff did in fact use Bible reading as a form of discipline for students. Students also alleged both staff and other students were hostile toward them because of their sexual orientation and when they reported instances of alleged sexual harassment — such as being called “faggot” or an instance where a teacher compared gay marriage to marrying a dog — school officials did nothing. (RELATED: California Lawmakers Consider A Bill That Would Ban The Bible)
District officials handled the issue of the forced Bible reading internally, as it was a personnel issue, they said.
District officials participated in a nine hour mediation on April 24 but ultimately failed to reach an agreement with the students who made the allegations. Representatives of the district will now appear before a May 24 hearing with an ODE hearings officer to determine whether the school district breached either state or federal anti-discrimination laws. The American Civil Liberties Union is involved in the hearing, according to The World.
“The district disputes many of ODE’s preliminary findings and will present evidence to rebut the findings at at the May 24, 2018, hearing,” the school district wrote in a statement. “The district works very hard every day to make sure all students feel respected and safe at school and will continue these efforts regardless of the outcome of this hearing.”
The alleged incidents occurred over several years, “most of which had not been brought to the district’s attention,” the district also clarified.
The ODE also expressed concern over the district’s allegedly documented retaliation against a counselor who advocated for the LGBT students involved.
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