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USPS to release scratch-and-sniff stamps; Leaks? White House has sinkhole; 2 Oregon teens take down homophobic school officials; more in U.S. news


2 teen girls take down homophobic school officials

The stares and whispers started on the first day of school in 2015, when Liv Funk and Hailey Smith silently held hands at North Bend High School.

They knew coming out would be hard in the small Oregon city — but they hadn’t expected it to elicit frightening responses from students and faculty, the girls wrote for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon.

Funk, who was a sophomore in 2015, wrote about being called gay slurs. Smith, then a junior, said she learned to not care — until it escalated. In the parking lot, they saw the principal’s son speeding toward them in his car.

"We thought he was going to hit us. Instead, he drove right up next to us, yelled out [a gay slur] and veered away," Smith wrote. "It was terrifying."

Both Funk and Smith reported incidents to the principal, who never took action. They weren’t surprised: He had once made a friend read the Bible as punishment for being bisexual.

Smith said her civics teacher told the class same-sex marriage was the same as bestiality. The principal told Smith everyone has a right to an opinion.

The incidents piled on: There were constant offensive comments, slurs and "jokes." During Funk’s junior year, she was attacked near the school by two boys who were yelling slurs, one hitting her twice with his skateboard.

Funk reported the attack to the school’s officer. His response? Prepare for more — and you’re going to hell.

Funk and Smith filed complaints with Oregon’s education department, and a legal clinic run by Willamette University College of Law students took it on. In April, a law professor reached out to the ACLU because it was "one of the worst case of discrimination at a school that she had ever seen."

Oregon found "substantial evidence of discrimination and other violations of state and federal law" at North Bend. On Monday, the ACLU reached a settlement that dictated principal Bill Lucero be removed.

In addition, police must remove school resource officer Jason Griggs. The North Bend School District also must remain under supervision of the Oregon education department for five years, and work with the ACLU. Smith and Funk asked the school to donate $1,000 to a local LGBTQ support group.

Smith, 19, no longer attends the school but hopes for improvement. Nearly a graduate, Funk, 18, is relieved to change the district for future teens.


You can soon sniff that stamp

Letter writers will soon be able to express their sentiments in words and smells. The U.S. Postal Service announced Monday that it will soon issue its first scratch-and-sniff stamps. The stamps feature illustrations of ice pops. The agency said the stamps will "add the sweet scent of summer" to letters. The 20 stamps depict watercolor illustrations by California artist Margaret Berg. Each of the 10 stamp designs includes two different treats. The words "FOREVER" and "USA" also appear along the bottom of each stamp. The stamps will be issued on June 20 at a children’s museum in Texas.


Artist Robert Indiana dies at 89

Pop artist Robert Indiana, best known for his 1960s LOVE series, died Saturday at his Vinalhaven Island home. He was 89. Indiana died from respiratory failure, said attorney James Brannan. Friends had recently expressed concern because the reclusive artist had not been heard from for some time. A lawsuit filed the day before his death suggested he was purposefully isolated by his caretakers. Brannan declined to comment. "He was reclusive, cantankerous and sometimes difficult. But he was a very loyal, loving man. He was the architect of love," said Kathleen Rogers, a friend and former publicist of the man born Robert Clark in Indiana. His works will be on display as part of "Season of Love" this fall at the Tampa Museum of Art.

Washington, D.C.

Board suggests states put seatbelts in new school buses

A federal transportation panel on Tuesday recommended to states that all new large school buses be equipped with both lap and shoulder seatbelts, which the board chairman called a "tried and true" safety protection. The National Transportation Safety Board approved the recommendation Tuesday. The board also recommended requiring collision-avoidance systems and automatic emergency brakes on new school buses. The recommendations, which aren’t binding on government agencies or the transportation industry, came just days after a school bus collided with a dump truck in New Jersey, killing a student and teacher. Eight states already require some kind of seatbelts on larger school buses. Some states, like Florida, use just lap belts and were urged to add shoulder belts.

White House lawn has sinkhole

For all the concern over leaks at the White House, a more pressing problem might be the sinkhole on the North Lawn that appears to be growing. The pit in the ground, which was first reported by White House correspondents on site this week, appears to have opened just outside the press briefing room and the deputy White House press secretary’s office. Voice of America reporter Steve Herman tweeted he first spotted the sinkhole last week. It has since grown, and another has opened next to it. It was not clear what caused the emergence of the White House sinkholes. As of Tuesday afternoon, groundskeepers had placed orange cones and caution tape around the spot on the lawn. By midafternoon, the sinkhole had its own following, self-described as #TeamSinkhole, and of course, its own Twitter account, with users saying it was an allegory. This isn’t the first time a sinkhole has vexed President Donald Trump. Exactly a year ago, a much larger sinkhole opened in front of Mar-a-Lago.


Suspected Texas shooter’s father says his son might’ve been bullied: A 17-year-old student accused of fatally shooting 10 people at Santa Fe High School should be seen as a "victim" because he may have been bullied, causing him to lash out, his father said. Antonios Pagourtzis told Greece’s Antenna TV he wished he could have stopped Friday’s killing. "Something must have happened," he said. "Somebody probably came and hurt (Dimitrios), and since he was a solid boy, I don’t know what could have happened." Dimitrios Pagourtzis took the dad’s legally owned shotgun and handgun before leaving for school, he added. As people have pointed out on social media, many teens — especially minorities — are relentlessly bullied without shooting up schools.

3rd man found guilty in Charlottesville garage attack: Daniel Borden of Ohio was found guilty Monday for beating DeAndre Harris in a parking garage during last year’s "Unite the Right" rally in Virginia. Under Borden’s plea, he did not admit guilt but conceded prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him on a malicious wounding charge. He faces up to 20 years in prison. In widely seen video online, several white men chased Harris into Charlottesville’s main municipal parking garage Aug. 12. He was brutally beaten and sustained serious injuries. Jacob Scott Goodwin, 22, of Arkansas, and KKK imperial wizard Richard Preston, 53, of Maryland also have been found guilty in the attack.

Even in scholarly context, Publix doesn’t want to put "cum" on cake: A woman isn’t happy a South Carolina Publix censored her honor graduate son’s cake, which was supposed to include the Latin phrase "summa cum laude." Cara Koscinski said Publix’s online order service did not like the word "cum" — Latin for "with." The computer marked it as a naughty word and substituted three hyphens in the phrase. Koscinski said she then filled in special instructions, explaining the Latin term and placed the $70 order. When a family member picked up the cake, it came with the hyphens for the homeschooled high school graduate. The store gave Koscinski a refund and a gift card. — tbt* wires

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