Oregon Principal Who Pushed Bible on LGBTQ Students Reassigned to Middle School

Back in May, we learned that officials in the North Bend School District in Oregon were accused of wildly discriminatory practices against LGBTQ students.

North Bend High School’s Principal Bill Lucero and school resource officer Jason Griggs were accused of telling a student she was going to hell for being gay, punishing LGBTQ students more harshly than other ones, and equating homosexuality to bestiality.

Students were also disciplined by having to read Bible verses.

And beyond that, Lucero’s own son lobbied anti-gay slurs and nearly ran over two gay students with his car. (The son denies these allegations.)

It was only because those two students, Liv Funk and Hailey Smith, told a friendly counselor about these problems that administrators finally took action.

In a settlement between the District and the ACLU of Oregon, Lucero and Griggs were removed from their jobs with the promise that Lucero would no longer work anywhere in the high school or as principal of the middle school. The ACLU’s director even said at the time that the settlement sent “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.”

Looks like the consequences aren’t that serious.

The District announced yesterday that, while Lucero would no longer be a principal, he would be reassigned next year as vice principal of the middle school.

The North Bend School District announced recently the following administrative changes have been made for the 2018-2019 school year. Mr. Darrell Johnston, the current middle school principal, will be the Principal of North Bend High School. Mr. Ralph Brooks, the current middle school vice principal, will be the Principal of North Bend Middle School. Mr. Bill Lucero, the current high school principal, will be the Vice Principal of North Bend Middle School. Mr. Jake Smith will remain in his current role as Vice Principal of North Bend High School.

The District is confident that these new administrative teams will be able to successfully assist the District in moving forward. Our mission is navigating a successful course for every student, every day, every way.

While the reassignment doesn’t conflict with the settlement, it still raises all kinds of questions. Why would it be any better for Lucero to be in charge of even more vulnerable children? Especially ones who may not have the wherewithal to know who to inform when things go wrong? What are his thoughts about LGBTQ students today?

Without clear answers to those, it’s hard to see how this change will be better for everyone.

The World, a local newspaper that’s covered this story since day one, said as much in an editorial in May:

Reassigning former Principal Lucero is exactly the wrong thing to do. This is for the safety of all students in the district.

We recognize that Lucero has had a substantial career with the district and he has many students, parents and faculty members who admire him as an educator and as an administrator. However, he failed his first obligation to educate and protect the very students for which he is charged.

It’s time for the NBSD to move on without Mr. Lucero.

They didn’t listen.

The ACLU of Oregon was also frustrated with the change, telling me in a statement:

It is troubling that people with a clear track record of violating students rights will remain in positions of power in the district. It is also concerning that [the] district still has not acknowledged the harms they have caused our clients and other LGBTQ students in North Bend. Administrators and students in North Bend should know that the ACLU of Oregon will closely monitor the implementation of the settlement to ensure that students do not continue to face discrimination.

Funk, one of the students who blew the whistle on Lucero’s actions, told me that, despite the setback, she had a positive outlook on the situation:

This is not the outcome I was expecting, but I am hopeful that, even with these slight changes, paired with the new policies and trainings and ACLU/ODE oversight that North Bend High School District will grow each year, and become a safe place for all students.

I don’t share her optimism, but I sincerely hope she’s right. Maybe now that Lucero has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, he’ll act more carefully and learn to treat all of his students with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Update: Hailey Smith, the other whistleblower in this story, offered this statement:

This isn’t exactly the result I was hoping for. Even so, I think that the changes that are going to be put into place will allow for a more accepting and inclusive administration and staff.

And although it isn’t the exact outcome I had fully wanted, I think that more significant change takes time. It’s not really possible to fix every issue within the school and the district in a little over a year. So, I’m hoping that over time (and with the ACLU and ODE involvement) the school will change further for the better to benefit future staff, administration and students.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)

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