The Community Stands Against Racism and Hate at North and South Eugene High Schools
In 2007, the Oregon School Activities Association commissioned an independent investigation into accusations of racism and hate occurring during the previous year’s state basketball tournament at the University of Oregon. The investigation confirmed that racial slurs were used and inappropriate actions did occur during games between Portland’s Roosevelt High School and two Eugene schools — both Churchill and North Eugene High Schools.
The principal and staff of Roosevelt reported that students from Churchill then challenged the principal who tried to control student interactions. In the parking lot those students then threatened to burn the principal’s house down.
However, that investigation cleared the individual players from any wrongdoing and blamed most of the problems on the crowd. The investigator, former Court of Appeal Chief Judge Mary Deits said the identification of those suspected of using racial slurs and partaking in inappropriate behavior against Black students from Roosevelt was difficult.
The report of the investigation made recommendations related to student conduct and “correcting flaws in the coordination and crowd management.”
A year later, in 2008, the crowd would be given directions and guidelines of “sportsmanlike behavior” upon entrance to North Eugene High School basketball games. Fans at the games were segregated by school and were escorted in-and-out of McArthur Court for crowd management purposes. Fans from North Eugene were kept from accessing buses from the opposing team.
Ten years later, another act of hate and racism occurred at North Eugene High School. In September 2017, graffiti displaying anti-Semitic slurs and white supremacist language appeared on an exterior wall.
Months prior to that, Jennifer Scurlock, a teacher at CHS, hosted a series of town halls to allow a safe place for students to tell their stories about acts of racism within school.
Scurlock knew that the community and educators would benefit from hearing their stories. She was inspired to make a change locally after her own son, Donovan Scurlock, begged both his parents to pack and move to another state.
Two years after that, a family assaulted students at NEHS after a racially fueled fight broke out during lunch. The superintendent at that time called the adults’ actions “unacceptable.”
The white student involved in the fight during lunch was charged with disorderly conduct, criminal mistreatment, and racial intimidation. After the fight broke out, both students later contacted their families.
William Roberts, the father of the white student later approached three uninvolved Black students and accosted them with racial slurs. His wife then assaulted two of the young students with another family member.
Kerry Delf, the current 4J communications chief of staff at the time, said that the events between the NEHS students should serve as an example. They showed the community “how to stand up” against racism.
“Non-students came to campus and behaved in a way that the students didn’t accept, and they did something about it,” she said.
Following the murder of George Floyd, the Eugene Education Association held a rally demanding change within the 4J district. Educators called for support of BIPOC students and to diversify school courses and staff.
In 2021, Kendrick Lamar was “erased” from NEHS’ curriculum for Black History Month.
As of December, students at local area high schools have been involved in racist and threatening behavior, both in person and online.
Students at NEHS have, again, sprayed the walls with racist hate and religious intolerant language and have made threats to both staff and students of color.
In response, the EEA took action and called on the community to Stand Together Against Hate.
On Wednesday, Dec. 15, the Eugene community responded to the call.
Both actions began at 4 p.m.. on the corners of River Road and Silver Lane near NEHS, and 19th and Patterson next to South Eugene High School.
As the events went on the size of the supporters at each location grew. Initially ten people were holding signs but as the night went on more than 150 people were present combined.
River Road provided a busy and noisy backdrop for the event. Passing cars honked their horns in support as they drove through the intersection and community members responded with enthusiastic cheers.
Tammy Steeves, a 4J school teacher, was there to show support for “all students, specifically for BIPOC students due to all the problems with the graffiti and bullying,” she said.
Another teacher, Jenoge Khatter, expressed support for their colleagues at NEHS. Khatter said “they have experienced virulent acts of racism, being here helps them know they are seen across the district and community.”
Golda LoBello, a teacher at NEHS, said that there have been several incidents of hate speech and directed harassment via social media towards teachers and students.
“For me, I am hoping that students and community members recognize we are here and behind them in support. That we do not stand for hatred or harassment,” LoBello said. “I’m a teacher. I love my students.”
Principal, Trinity Welch-Radabuagh said she was there just as a “participant” with the students, “to stand with them and to show solidarity with my community.”
Assistant principals Jesus Sandoval and Travis Sheaffer were also present and wore red and black in a show of support for Black Lives Matter and for their students.
Sheaffer said that when incidents like these occur it impacts the whole community. People feel “hurt, fear, disgust, and shame,” he said.
Both Sandoval and Sheaffer believe that it’s important as educators to stand up against hate. Sandoval said events like this function as a way for the “community to denounce hate,” including students, teachers, and those at the district level.
“We rally with our students to drive out hate,” said Sheaffer.
Students from NEHS and Springfield were present in solidarity too.
NEHS students Emily Lara, Emma Garber, Artana Nice, and Maya Ryley said they “want our school to be a safe place for everyone.” As student advocates they all felt it was important to be present at the rally.
Seniors Lara and Garber said they want “to leave this place better than when we found it.”
“The turnout proves that the community is here for us. We want this to be over, it’s gone on for way too long,” said Lara.
Anahi Valldolid and Janery Servin Duran were present from Springfield High School as part of the Community Alliance of Lane County. They were passing out a flyer encouraging people to take actions in the wake of what had happened.
The flyer asked people to check-in on students to make time to listen and see what support they need, and to demand that a Hate and Bias Response Team be created and implemented to respond to these incidents. It also asked that people speak-up at 4J school board meetings.
The EEA and CALC agree. Both organizations have called upon the 4J school district to adopt a racial harassment policy similar to efforts put forth by Junction City.
On the other side of town, Lane County Commissioner for District 3, Laurie Trieger, stood in support of students in front of South Eugene High School. Speaking during a livestream, Trieger said that she was “standing in solidarity with the school community who raised concerns about some racist online bullying that’s been happening targeting some specific students but, really, putting us all at risk.”
The board met later the same evening. During the meeting community members and representatives from the EEA called upon the district to also stand up against hate.
[…] that there was no immediate threat to students or to the schools. These threats coincide with other acts of racism and hate that have spread online via social […]