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  • Michael Costa

Hazelbrook Horror: The Epidemic of Restorative Violence Raising Hell in the Hallways



With the help of new progressive discipline policies, Oregon public schools have been consumed by a culture of tolerance toward hate and violence (Cook, 2023) disguised as "restorative justice." While punitive justice ensures that violent perpetrators suffer the consequences for their actions, restorative justice claims to prioritize mending relationships and repairing harm experienced by the victims (Pate, 2023). It also instructs teachers to not discipline students for acts of disruption (Oregon Catalyst, 2023). Last year, 48 Portland Public School teachers signed a letter demanding immediate action by district leaders, charging that most middle schools were “plagued with violence amongst our students, with students and staff alike subjected to disruptions in the learning environment, physical injuries and emotional harm" (Silverman, 2023). Portland Public Schools safety and security task force has even recommended having police officers stationed near schools in order to allow them to respond quickly to cases of violent attacks (KGW8, 2023).


The most recent case was recorded at Hazelbrook Middle School, by a boy who attends school dressed as a girl. Viral videos and reports exposed the boy's unrelenting onslaught of sadistic abuse towards multiple girls, leaving them scared and in pain, and a frightening pattern has come to light. A joint statement from the Tigard-Tualatin School District, Tualatin Police Department and Washington County Juvenile Department revealed that "the youth alleged to be responsible for the incident has been arrested and charged by the Tualatin Police Department. The Washington County Juvenile Department has received a law enforcement referral in this matter, and a petition has been filed with the Juvenile Court for Assault 4 and Harassment." The Director of Washington County Juvenile Department confirmed that charges are pending. “The Washington County Juvenile Department remains committed to enhancing community safety and breaking the cycle of delinquency through effective evidence-based intervention practices and holding youth accountable for their behavior.”


The Tigard-Tualatin School District released a public statement about the event. It emphasized diversity, validation, and empowerment while making no apology to parents about the epidemic of violence taking place within the hallways. They held a safety and wellness meeting (Perkins, 2023) where parents showed up to discuss this problem, but it was not open to public testimony. When parents tried to speak up, they were shouted over with a bullhorn. And once again, mothers and fathers did not receive an apology (Tigard-Tualatin School District, 2023).


Local parents report that not a single school official reached out to the victim's family following the attack to see if they were okay (Cook, 2023).


Julianne Ackerman, a former teacher at the middle school and outspoken social justice activist, spoke out in favor of the school administration. She did not characterize this tragedy as an issue of poor safeguarding policies. Instead, she jumped on the bandwagon and blamed distressed parents (Koch & Parfitt, KGW 2023). To our knowledge, no leaders from the district support concerned parents who fear for their daughters. Ben Edtl, a father and activist who attended our protest, prepared a school board testimony which called attention to how dangerous this is all becoming. Not surprisingly, his testimony was cut off within the first 20 seconds and his opinions were dismissed. On social media, Edtl describes Hazelbrook Middle School as unsafe, hostile, unwelcoming, and plastered with queer propaganda. "The District has acted despicably in the media, lying about the facts, promoting confusion and chaos, and gaslighting parents and voters. Your concern has been with protecting the gender identity of the attacker, because this situation threatens your terrible policies that put every girl who attends the TTSD at risk of these kinds of attacks…and worse (Edtl, 2023)."


Alex Chrostowski, who runs the Washington State chapter of Gays Against Groomers, believes that when a child is assaulted on school property, responsibility lies with the person who attacked them and the school officials that let it happen. They knew the student was a problem. They knew the student was violent. They did nothing. The perpetrator has a history of attacking girls and not being punished for it. According to the victim's mother, “The more I started talking with the moms in the community, the more I learned this male student had been an issue, and the school hadn’t done anything about it. It seems, from my standpoint, that they really let him go unchecked and unchallenged. He was allowed to pick anyone as his victim, and unfortunately, my daughter happened to be his victim” (Iford, 2023). Her daughter would have never been attacked if this problem was dealt with appropriately in the first place. But in the name of "restorative justice," he was still lurking the halls and clearly had not learned his lesson. No charges were raised for the other assaults that took place and police were not involved. School administrators did what they do best and swept it under the rug. Parents then received a letter from the district, asking them not to share or discuss the videos on social media. The letter asked parents not to discuss the student’s gender. And it implied that caring about children's safety is comparable to hate speech.


A teacher describes the chaos she deals with on a day-to-day basis and begs Hazelbrook Middle School to get it under control before it more children are put in danger

With the passage of HB 2166 (2021), the Oregon Department of Education is required to oversee the development of a Social-Emotional Learning framework and education standards for K-12 schools in alignment with their Integrated Model of Mental Health that “promote[s] self-awareness, awareness of others, critical thinking, and understanding regarding the interaction between systemic social structures and histories, contributions and perspectives of individuals,” naming "LGBTQ2SIA+ youth" as one required student populations to support [Oregon HB 2166 (2021), Section 4(2)(e)(E)]. And it has proven to be a disaster. Edtl has received reports from teachers about how they "don't even write referrals anymore because no action or discipline would ever take place. He [the Hazelbrook perpetrator] attacked 3 girls at the school within a six month period of time, brutally assaulted them, and there was no meaningful intervention from the school from a disciplinary standpoint." There have been reports of Hazelbrook students assaulting their teachers. And this particular boy has had multiple incidents against different girls at this school. One Hazelbrook teacher wrote a letter to the district about how kids are scared and feel unsafe at the school. Students are getting into fights, attacking one another, and wreaking havoc in the hallways. The letter points out that "we have gone so far with restorative justice that students can essentially do whatever they want, with little repercussions because the district has made it impossible to give students consequences …

Our district focuses on emotional well-being during our community classes, but is not doing anything about the emotional well-being of students who are actually being harmed. How are we helping kids regulate their emotions if they are not being held accountable?"

The school did not want charges pressed on the trans student, and its representatives were more sympathetic towards the boy and his "gender expression" than for the girls' physical safety, which is atrocious behavior on their behalf. All students should be treated equally. Those who commit senseless violence should be labeled as a threat, regardless of what gender identity they brand themselves with. No exceptions.


New Oregon DOE guidelines discuss giving children gender-affirming Breast Binders and Penis Packers to wear at school. Teachers and staff are legally required to keep this a secret from parents

Accepting such double standards is dangerous and can have severe consequences. It just creates room for more opportunists to go around hurting people and figuring out new ways to identify out of taking accountability. Another reason the school might be avoiding addressing this properly is fear of legal action. All schools and districts in Oregon are required to have nondiscrimination policies and procedures that include "gender identity." This year, the Oregon Department of Education (ORDOE) published new guidance for supporting gender expansive students at school. "In general, school staff should not share a student's transgender or gender-diverse status, legal name, or sex assigned at birth with others, who could include other students, school staff, and non-school staff … If a school employee outs a student by sharing any personally identifiable records information without the consent of the student or their parent or caregiver, such as legal name or gender/sex assigned at birth, those actions could constitute a violation of Oregon school records law or FERPA, and may also constitute discrimination (ORDOE, 2023)." Not only does this further normalize the idea that students and teachers have a civil right to keep secrets from parents, but it is extremely unfair to the victims. It forces everybody to be outwardly dishonest about an outbreak of brutal attacks in order to protect the feelings of the attacker.


Event poster for the school board protest in Portland, OR.

Parents should be able to send their children to school without having to worry about them getting injured…or worse. It is not hateful to stand up for your kids and request transparency from those who have a job to keep them safe. Gays Against Groomers Washington and Oregon state chapters joined groups of parents, feminists, teachers, community members and more in a rally outside of the school board meeting where the attacks were set to be discussed. The cowards wound up canceling the in-person meeting and held it virtually, instead. But the protesters still showed up and spoke out. "We're starting to see this idea of restorative justice take root, where people think that they have the right to commit violence on others … I'm a gay parent. I have kids of my own. And I'm tired of people making these policies and claiming that those policies are done on my behalf – on gay people's behalf. They're NOT," announced Chrostowski during her rally speech. "The people in my organization – We're parents…we have brothers and sisters…with nephews and nieces. We are invested in every way and we have your back. If you stand with us, we will stand with you whenever you call."


Watch our Washington chapter leader Alex's speech outside of the middle school below:



REFERENCES


American Faith. (2023, September 29). Viral Video Shows Male Trans Student Brutally Assaulting Female Student at Oregon Middle School: Parents Demand Action (Content Warning). https://americanfaith.com/viral-video-shows-male-trans-student-brutally-assaulting-female-student-at-oregon-middle-school-parents-demand-action-content-warning/


American Progress. (2020). Beyond Bostock: The Future of LGBTQ Civil Rights. https://www.americanprogress.org/article/beyond-bostock-future-lgbtq-civil-rights/


Edtl, B. [@benedtl]. (2023, September 30). This is a letter written by a teacher at Hazelbrook Middle School @TigardTualSD begging the district for change and pointing out the total failure of Restorative Justice "students can essentially do whatever they want"... "if I were a parent and knew what was going on at Hazelbrook, I would not want to send my child here." [Tweet]. Twitter.

https://twitter.com/benedtl/status/1708133964391801243?t=46xa1kcjFFqtl2R6TleBeA&s=19


Edtl, B. [@benedtl]. (2023, October 10). This is the testimony I tried to provide the @TigardTualSD regarding #hazelbrookmiddleschool at last night’s board meeting. Unfortunately, Board Chair Tristan Irvin cut me off in the first 20 seconds. Other parents were cut off too in violation of District rules. She doesn’t want you to hear it, but I think you should. [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/benedtl/status/1711888569307144203?t=1R_Bgpo8eDlSmWc6MANevQ&s=19


KGW News. (2023, October 6). Hazelbrook Middle School student charged with assault after video shows attack on classmate. https://www.kgw.com/article/news/local/the-story/hazelbrook-middle-school-tualatin-videos-threats-viral-transgender-student/283-2bfa42e6-bab1-42aa-b79d-0e4c10496392


KGW News. (2023, October 7). Tigard-Tualatin School District responds to Hazelbrook assault. https://www.kgw.com/article/news/education/tigard-tualatin-school-district-hazelbrook-assault/283-eb860a9d-e1cc-4b41-abb7-18d723029a1b


Known Heretic. (2023, October 9). Live Press Conference Tigard-Tualatin School District HQ [Video]. YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/live/5oIh2XmsA7w?si=_9zqMCXsBNuUemcC


Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. (2023). Gender-Inclusive Schools. https://ospi.k12.wa.us/policy-funding/equity-and-civil-rights/resources-school-districts-civil-rights-washington-schools


Oregon Capital Chronicle. (2023, January 13). Schools get new guidance for gender inclusivity, supporting students, safety. https://oregoncapitalchronicle.com/2023/01/13/schools-get-new-guidance-for-gender-inclusivity-supporting-students-safety/


Oregon Catalyst. (2023, October 5). Tigard-Tualatin School District reaction to violent incident at Hazelwood viral video. https://oregoncatalyst.com/72180-teacher-school-fight-video-caused-lack-liberal-restorative-justice-programs.html


Oregon Department of Education. (2023, January 5). Supporting Gender Expansive Students: Guidance for Schools. https://www.oregon.gov/ode/students-and-family/equity/civilrights/Documents/ODE-Supporting-Gender-Expansive-Students.pdf


Oregon Public Broadcasting. (2022, April 21). Support for transgender students in Oregon schools goes beyond Salem-Keizer. https://www.opb.org/article/2022/04/21/support-for-transgender-students-in-oregon-schools-goes-beyond-salem-keizer/


OregonLive. (2023, September 28). Video of Tualatin middle school assault goes viral, sparking conversation about youth and social media. https://www.oregonlive.com/education/2023/09/video-of-tualatin-middle-school-fight-goes-viral-sparking-conversation-about-youth-and-social-media.html?outputType=amp


ReadLion. (2023, October 6). Trans student charged after caught on video assaulting female student in middle school hallway. https://readlion.com/trans-student-charged-after-caught-on-video-assaulting-female-student-in-middle-school-hallway/


The Oregonian. (2023, February 28). Portland-area middle schools walloped by bullying, fights and unrest in pandemic’s wake, remain on the brink. https://www.oregonlive.com/education/2023/02/portland-area-middle-schools-walloped-by-bullying-fights-and-unrest-in-pandemics-wake-remain-on-the-brink.html


The Post Millennial. (2023, September 29). Trans-identified male violently beats female student in Oregon middle school. https://thepostmillennial.com/trans-identified-male-violently-beats-female-student-in-oregon-middle-school?utm_campaign=64470


Tualatin Life. (2023). Mother of teen girl assaulted at Hazelbrook Middle School speaks out. https://tualatinlife.com/schools-and-family/mother-of-teen-girl-assaulted-at-hazelbrook-middle-school-speaks-out/


U.S. Department of Education. (2021, June 16). U.S. Department of Education confirms Title IX protects students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-confirms-title-ix-protects-students-discrimination-based-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity


U.S. Department of Education. Overview of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. https://www2.ed.gov/policy/rights/guid/ocr/sexoverview.html


Washington County. (2023, September 29). Joint statement: Juvenile assault allegations, Tualatin school. https://www.washingtoncountyor.gov/juvenile/news/2023/09/29/joint-statement-juvenile-assault-allegations-tualatin-school


Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. (2023). OSPI explains: How do Washington’s public schools protect students’ gender identities and gender expression? https://medium.com/waospi/ospi-explains-how-do-washingtons-public-schools-protect-students-gender-identities-and-gender-7d33c737ebc6


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