July/August 2018 Church & State Magazine - July/August 2018

Oregon School Reassigns Principal Accused Of Making LGBTQ Student Read Bible

  Liz Hayes

An Oregon high school principal accused of forcing at least one LGBTQ student to read the Bible as punishment has been reassigned to a new position.

Principal Bill Lucero of North Bend High School was to be reassigned, although his new role in the district had not been specified at Church & State’s press time. Additionally, the district agreed to ask the local police department to replace a school resource officer accused of overseeing the Bible-reading punishment.

Although the district denied the allegations, media reports indicated district staff had admitted to the forced Bible-reading during an investigation by Oregon’s Department of Education (ODE).

Two LGBTQ students reported district staff had discriminated against them and turned a blind eye to harassment they suffered. The department’s report indicated students were hesitant to report discrimination because they felt the religious beliefs of district staff meant they wouldn’t be taken seriously.

“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. … ,” ODE’s March 6 letter to the district stated, adding that the practice of reading from the Bible could have a “chilling effect” on LGBTQ students reporting harassment.

ODE’s letter addressed two other incidents that helped to confirm the LGBTQ students’ fears:

  • A gay couple reported that another student – Lucero’s son – had driven “very close to them” while they were holding hands and shouted an anti-gay slur at them. The couple claimed the district didn’t investigate their complaint; instead, they were told Lucero would discuss the incident with his son from a parent’s perspective. The boy, Brody Lucero, denied the accusations in a May 22 Facebook post, according to the KCBY television station in Coos Bay, Ore.
  • An LGBTQ student complained that a teacher had told a classroom of students that same-sex couples marrying was akin to a person marrying a dog. After intervention from administrators, the teacher reportedly apologized to the student.

A settlement between the district and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon on behalf of LGBTQ students at North Bend was announced May 21, days before state education officials were scheduled to have a hearing with school administration to determine whether the district was in compliance with state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

On May 23, as Lucero left the high school, some students walked out of class to protest his reassignment. They hugged him, chanted “Free Bill” and circulated a petition to get him reinstated, according to The World newspaper in Coos Bay.

Can't make it to D.C for SRF?

Join us at the Summit for Religious Freedom virtually!

If you can’t make it to the nation’s capital for the Summit for Religious Freedom, you can still participate in an impressive virtual program of live, curated sessions from the comfort of your home, local coffee shop or anywhere with an internet connection.

Find out more and register today!