The Oregon coast is one of the tourism wonders of our country with its misty capes, baying sea lions, dusky brown sand, pods of grey whales and majestic basalt rock formations a few dozen feet into the surf. About midway down its Pacific coastline is the town of Coos Bay, not far from the North Bend School District.
Who knew that this quiet, rural place hid a dark secret? On Wednesday, the New York Times ran a story that had been percolating for more than a week but which had surprisingly gotten no coverage from media in Portland.
It involves a public school, a lawsuit, the Bible and LGBTQ students.
In the hallways of a rural Oregon high school, gay and lesbian students were taunted with homophobic slurs. In the cafeteria, students pelted a transgender student with food. And when gay and lesbian students got into trouble, the school’s principal assigned a specific punishment just for them: readings from the Bible.
Students detailed those allegations in recent state investigative reports into the North Bend School District, a coastal area about 100 miles north of California. In the reports, gay and lesbian high school students described years of harassment and bigotry from school employees and other students, and a deeply religious culture that silenced their complaints.
The two reports, completed in March by an investigator in the Oregon Department of Education and made public this month, found that top officials in North Bend had for at least the past two school years fostered hostile conditions for gay and lesbian students, hesitated to intervene after reports of sexual harassment and retaliated against a school counselor who had cooperated with the state investigation.
Let's pause for a moment.
Having lived and reported out of Oregon -- for more than eight years at one point -- I know that this state is one of the most irreligious states in America. Gallup polls bear me out. So, there’s this “deeply religious culture” lurking just southwest of the ultra-liberal college town of Eugene?