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Mom says Century staffers harassed gay son

School officials say incident is under investigation


The mother of a Century High School student is alleging her son was verbally harassed by several staff members at the school during an incident last Friday morning.

Hillsboro School District officials say they’re looking into the matter. District communications director Beth Graser confirmed Tuesday that “there was an incident on Friday morning involving [this] student where staff members’ comments and/or behavior were perceived as inappropriate.”

Three staff members were allegedly involved, Graser said, adding “none were or currently are on administrative leave as a result.”

Shawna Dicintio, a Hillsboro resident and the mother of Jeffrey Dicintio, a 16-year-old sophomore at Century, said the incident began when Jeffrey was a few minutes late to school Friday and checked in at the attendance office to get a pass to go to class.

Jeffrey, who has been diagnosed with anxiety and emotional issues, was given a detention slip because his tardiness was considered “unexcused.” Shawna — who by that time had left the school in her car — said Jeffrey went to the back of the attendance line and called her to have her excuse the tardiness.

“He has trouble getting out the door sometimes,” said Shawna.

That was when Jeffrey was told by a staff member to “hang up the phone,” she said.

Shawna had answered Jeffrey’s call by then and said she could hear her son and what was going on in the background.

“He tried to explain (to an attendance person). He was not too riled up,” she said.

What Shawna said she heard next, though, was what upset Jeffrey and started a sequence of events she claims amounted to harassment and bullying by school staff members.

First Shawna said she heard a male voice make several remarks, including “Stop being such a little diva.”

Jeffrey is openly gay. He said he told the staff member, “I take offense to that. I find it a very derogatory comment toward my sexuality.”

His mother was put off by what she considers condescending comments toward her son.

“I could hear someone laughing in the background,” Shawna said. “When Jeffrey gets anxious, he repeats. He kept saying, ‘Leave me alone.’”

Meanwhile, Jeffrey took action of his own.

“I got super pissed off and left (the attendance office) to go to the resource room,” Jeffrey said. He said he was followed by a security officer who told him, “I’m your mom. I’m your dad. I’m your parent.” Jeffrey then returned to the attendance office.

“None of the adults said anything” to de-escalate the situation, Jeffrey said.

By this time, Shawna had turned her car around and was headed back to school. When she arrived, she was met outside the attendance office by Jeffrey. According to Shawna, an administrator then came out.

“He said to both of us, ‘Come on, ladies,’” Shawna maintains. “My problem is, I don’t want this to continue. My son has been harassed by his peers for his sexuality, and now adults are doing it to him. I was told by the district my son would be safe here.”

Jeffrey has attended Century High School since just after spring break last school year. He transferred from Liberty High School at that time, Shawna said, because he was experiencing bullying from students.

She acknowledges Jeffrey sometimes lacks age-appropriate social skills.

“He was isolated when he was younger,” she said, because he has experienced bullying from peers from an early age.

Graser said district officials are unable to comment on specifics of the incident, but did say “there is an investigation going on into this incident, as there would be with any incident that’s brought to the attention of administration.” The investigation is being conducted at the school level by Principal Ted Zehr and his administrative staff, Graser said.

“I can say that there is genuine concern about the incident’s impact on the student, and that administration is following existing policies and procedures around investigation and personnel follow-up,” Graser said.

The Century High staff is “committed to working with the family to do what is necessary to get the student back in school and feeling good about the supports available to him,” Graser wrote in an email.

As part of the school district’s annual training, Graser said, all staff members are required to review the district’s hazing/harassment/bullying policy as it applies to staff and students.

“This policy specifically talks about not targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation,” Graser said.

After picking Jeffrey up last Friday morning, Shawna said she drove to the district administration office and spoke with a staff member in the human resources office.

She also met with a Century administrator Tuesday morning who, she said, apologized for the incident and assured her it would be looked into.

Shawna said she intends to file an official complaint with the school district about the incident and was scheduled to speak with an attorney Thursday morning.

Jeffrey has not returned to school since the encounter.

“We were thinking he would go today,” Shawna said Wednesday morning, “but he got too anxious.”

Graser pointed out that equity is one of the district’s five identified key strategies. “Ensuring that all students feel welcomed, valued and appreciated regardless of their differences is of top importance to us,” she said, adding that staff members have had numerous opportunities for training to learn how to “recognize and interrupt practices that perpetuate such bias.”

“Century High School, in particular, is known for its welcoming and inclusive environment. Behaviors that don’t align with that value system will be investigated, addressed and rectified in the most appropriate manner — whether that be at an individual, small group or school-wide level,” Graser added.

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