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North Bend schools reach deal with ACLU on treatment of LGBTQ students

Liv Funk and Hailey Smith say they faced harassment as students at North Bend High School. The ACLU of Oregon helped the students strike an agreement with the school district. (SBG)

NORTH BEND, Ore. - Liv Funk and Hailey Smith say they faced harassment as students at North Bend High School.

"I think there are two instances that were the scariest," Funk said Tuesday. "The principal's son accelerated very quickly towards Hailey and I and yelled homophobic slurs at us. And then I actually got assaulted and my hand was damaged and I needed medical attention."

"That was definitely my scariest moment was when the principal's son - we thought he was going to hit us," Smith said.

School officials didn't take action to stop the harassment, the students alleged.

And another student, who identifies as bisexual, was forced to read the Bible at school as punishment, according to the ACLU of Oregon.

"We saw a clear pattern of discrimination against LGBTQ students for different treatment," said Mat Dos Santos, legal director for the ACLU of Oregon, "and we also saw a clear violation of the First Amendment, the establishment clause which says that there should be separation between church and state."

The Oregon Department of Education had urged the district to resolve the issues. When the district didn't act, the state scheduled a hearing set for this week.

That hearing is still on. It is closed to the public and set for an undisclosed location.

But Monday night, the North Bend School District and the ACLU announced that the parties had reached an agreement

Under the agreement, North Bend principal Bill Lucero has been reassigned. The school will request a replacement for the school resource officer. There will be new training for teachers and students. And the district will donation money to a local gay and lesbian advocacy group.

No one from the school district would speak on camera Tuesday.

In a statement, officials said the district "looks forward to improving its complaint reporting procedures and staff training to prevent bullying and harassment from occurring in the first place."

For the students who pressed the case in pursuit of change, Tuesday is a day for celebration.

"I hope we can be an example for other schools who may not know how to change and how to move forward positively," Funk said. "I'm excited, I'm just ready for systemic change so we can have a safer learning environment."

"I hope people can see that and stand up for themselves," Smith said, "and they can do what we're doing here, make change."

After this settlement, the ACLU hopes that what happened to Funk and Smith will never happen again.

"This is a watershed moment for public education," Dos Santos said. "This case wouldn't have been possible if two young, brave women weren't willing to come forward."

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