Parents of Black students respond to harassment in Central Oregon

By Chris Gonzalez (OPB)
April 1, 2022 4:36 p.m.

Black students have been called racial epithets, particularly the N-word, at least 30 times since September.


These experiences led one Black student at Bend High school to ask his mother to take him out of in-person learning and put him in hybrid classes.

That wasn’t the first time a Black family made that decision.

Kenny Adams, a parent who has chosen to remove his kids from school, and Marcus LeGrand, vice-chair and director of the Bend-La Pine School Board, discussed the situation with OPB’s “Think Out Loud.” Here’s some of what they said.

What Adams’ children experienced before the family decided to switch to online schooling:

Adams: “They were dealing with students that were just flippantly using the N-word, as well as other racial slurs. When my daughter experienced this, she brought it up to myself and my wife, and went straight to the principal. She wasn’t sure exactly what to do in that instance because it was her first experience being called that. So we were like: ‘okay, let’s go ahead and bring this to the faculty.’ And she did. And what they said to her was: ‘Well, that’s not the worst thing that this kid has done,’ and that’s pretty much where it was dropped. We had a long conversation with her and she was like: ‘This is an ongoing thing. It’s not just me. This has happened with other students as well. And obviously, nothing is being done about it. I just don’t feel comfortable with this.’ So we had a long conversation, we’re very open with our kids and she was like: ‘It’s hard to concentrate. It’s hard to actually focus. Can we find an alternative? Can we find an online school?’ And at the time my next oldest child was like: ‘I’m hearing it always as well. I don’t want to experience this. It’s too distracting. I don’t feel like any of the faculty, or teachers are listening, we bring it up to them and it just gets dropped.’

We have four kids, and we pulled all four kids out because we didn’t want the younger ones having to deal with complaints falling on deaf ears as well. So they all went remote learning from jump and now only one of our kids is back in the school system”.

What went through Adams’ mind when his daughter told him he heard that a fellow student had called his daughter the N-Word:


Adams: “For me, it was repeated trauma because I was called the N-word for the first time at age 12. And you know, it’s something that sticks with you. It’s something that you’ll never forget. So when she brought it up to me, you have this bit of preparedness as Black parents, you have these conversations with your kids and you know they’re aware that this is a probability. So when it was brought up, there’s several ranges of emotion: rage, sadness. Because you would hope that we would have made progress from back when I was in school, but obviously we haven’t made progress in certain areas because these are learned behaviors. They’re learning this behavior from somewhere and our kids are the ones that are in front of these attacks. So it was very, very frustrating and angering but we knew we needed to make a decision incredibly fast.”

How LeGrand thinks the school system has supported and not supported students reporting harassment:

LeGrand: “Students were saying they didn’t trust the system because if something happens, they thought it was gonna be swept under the rug or that the perpetrators of the harassment, basically, that nothing was happening to them. So when the students don’t trust the system, that lets you know we have some work to do. Here’s the critical piece of it. It’s not about just the stories. This is a harsh and heinous thing that you’re doing by putting this pressure on students to have to deal with this on a daily basis. You have to look at it from that perspective. You have to look at, okay, why do we have a zero-tolerance policy within our schools in terms of discipline? Why isn’t it being implemented correctly? My concern is why is it that our students of color have to be the ones to bring this to the forefront for anyone to say anything? Or someone had to commit suicide? Or something bad happens for it to be recognized? Or people start pulling their kids out of schools. I’m sad because these students just want to be students. They just want to go to school and be able to just amplify their voice to be able to just get the education they deserve.”

What Adams’ children’s transition to online schooling has been like:

Adams: “For my three older kids, the transition was actually fantastic, to be honest. Not having that as a distraction, not having that as a constant concern, their grades went up. My kids are incredibly intelligent but having to deal with that stress of knowing that they didn’t have that support back then. And then going into the online learning environment, my daughter ended up graduating early.”

Are things getting better?

LeGrand: “It’s getting better. It has to because we have people on the board and in the halls or in administrations saying: ‘Hey, we gotta do some work. Their willingness to want to make these changes is great. Community people are stepping up to wanting to be volunteers. We’re looking at making things more equitable. We’re trying to make sure that we look at how can we have more diverse curriculum because, you know, in 2026 the state of Oregon is mandating that African American history must be in all schools, five through twelve. So we’re starting to prepare for those things and we’re starting to look at policies that need to be changed.”

Adams: I do think things have gotten better. The reason why I say that is what I’m experiencing with my youngest. My youngest has raised a couple of issues. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. We still have bullying issues as well. And I think that’s unfortunately not something that’s ever going to go away. So when they brought that up, you know, the faculty has been very good about communicating with me as a parent and has looked at it to make sure that there were no racial incidents that were involved in the bullying. So that was a breath of fresh air.”

What Adams would say to a black family moving to Bend that is trying to decide between putting their kids in school and an online option:

Adams: “I still would recommend that their kids go to school. I’m a big encourager of communication with your kids. Kids and students, their mindsets aren’t necessarily as, for lack of a better way of putting it, tainted, as ours are as adults. I think that students look at things a little bit more clearly. When they’re at that ground level, we’re looking at things from a bird’s eye view. As a parent, we are not in the schools on a daily basis. But with my kids on the ground level, I want to have that communication with them to really have these really big heart-to-hearts of, okay, so what are you experiencing? What are you dealing with? Is there anything that needs to be brought up? Have a conversation with your kid. That’s where you need to start.”

To hear more from Think Out Loud’s conversation with Kenny Adams and Marcus LeGrand click the “play” button at the top of the page.


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