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Hate Rash 

As Gov. Brown issues a statement against hate, Central Oregon is not immune to racial incidents

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On Monday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a statement calling for an end to hate in the wake of the election.

"Hate has no place in the Oregon we love," said Gov. Brown. "I refuse to let hate and discrimination divide our state and our people. We must work together as Oregonians and as Americans to build more inclusive and equitable communities."

Nationwide, civil rights groups have reported dozens of verbal and physical assaults against minorities since the election, according to a Nov. 14 report in The New York Times. Central Oregon is no exception.

At Bend-La Pine Schools, officials are not offering specific information about incidents involving alleged harassment and threats at Bend schools this week. On Nov. 9, law enforcement officers were called to High Desert Middle School, a school offering Spanish immersion programming on Bend's southeast side, for a report of harassment. On the same day, students reportedly made "Go back to Mexico" comments to at least one Latino student. Later, another source says students held a boy's hands back and tossed water bottles and sticks at him.

On Nov. 10 the school made another call to 911 to report a parent threatening a staff member. According to dispatch data, the incident was sparked by a discipline case involving a student. High Desert students were kept indoors following the incident Thursday. The administration at High Desert did not respond to requests for information, and district officials offered no specific details.

A parent at High Desert Middle School, Kelly (who declined to provide her full name), said Tuesday she received no word from school officials about any incidents, but agreed that officials should be more forthcoming. "Just for the safety of my child, at least... for the safety of all these children." Just before press time, High Desert released a letter to parents, saying "we have had students engage in inappropriate actions in the last few days – from bullying to messing around in the lunch room to fighting; and they have been disciplined appropriately for their engagement."

Meanwhile, community members report a racially-charged atmosphere in at least three other schools, including Bear Creek Elementary, Mountain View High School and Bend High School. Rodrigo Gaspar Barrajas, a local resident, says his niece was forced to skip class at Mountain View following the election, to avoid a group of boys making intimidating comments about Latinos. Barrajas says his family has avoided contacting the school thus far out of fear of venturing out. "My sister wants to go do this, but at the same time she's scared to leave her home. It's such an uncertain time for everybody, but for Latinos especially," Barrajas said.

Other families have also feared sending their kids back to school, and have skipped participating in events such as Friday's Veterans Day parade, according to Oscar Gonzalez, empowerment programs manager at the Latino Community Association. Gonzalez also says a veterans event at Bend High last week included chants of "Build the Wall." Gonzalez says they've requested a meeting with Bend-La Pine's superintendent, but so far have not been successful.

As of press time Tuesday, Bend-La Pine Schools officials refuse to comment on whether they have specific safety measures in place to respond to the incidents, referring instead to the district's standing intervention strategies and harassment policies. Julianne Repman, director of communication and safety at Bend-La Pine Schools told, the Source Weekly Thursday that teachers and students were having in-class discussions about tolerance, and issued the following blanket statement:

"We will not allow bullying, harassment or discrimination. We will not tolerate hateful language or behavior. We will not condone any violation of board policy or state or federal laws. Students who are found to be in violation of district policies and our code of conduct will be subject to discipline, up to and including expulsion."

Local activist Greg Delgado says he's working with community members to approach the district about specific incidents of racial harassment. "They're good about dismissing us," Delgado said of Bend-La Pine Schools. "But it's not about reprimanding... it's about meaningful conversations."

Parents, including Bear Creek parent Kattaryna Stiles, want more. "I understand that school district has a policy of protecting students when incidents happen, but if this is happening in our community, we cannot cover it up," said Stiles, who sits on the site council at Bear Creek. "We need to know so that we can protect our children from becoming victims rather than protecting the abusers, and so that our community can come together to stop this from happening again."

The Oregonian has also reported on racially charged incidents in schools, including citing the High Desert Middle School incident. Read that article HERE.

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