White supremacist issues arise in Oregon town

White supremacist issues arise in Oregon town

BUTTE FALLS, Ore. (AP) - The quiet Jackson County town of Butte Falls is combating outbreaks of racism by white supremacists and others, evident by swastikas carved in benches and fights between whites and Hispanics.

By June it had reached the high school. Someone burned a swastika symbol in the carpet of a history classroom.

"That was the first time I saw the problem really invade the school," known as a haven for children from troubled families, said history teacher Kevin Keating.

So when Tim Sweeney became district superintendent in July, he vowed to act.

Staff members were uncertain how to handle the issue and how much district support they would have, he said.

Last year 10th-graders Derrick Cisneros and Harley Casillas heard about classmates using slurs referring to their Hispanic heritage behind their backs.

Some of the racist remarks came from football teammates, Casillas said. They saw swastikas on bathroom walls.

Cisneros avoided the city park where alleged skinheads stared him down.

"It was like they were trying to knock us out of town," Casillas said.

During the first week of school, Sweeney stressed the district's no-tolerance policy for hate crimes at a student assembly.

Violators would be reported to police and face a four-day suspension for their first offense and be expelled for their second.

He increased hallway supervision and instructed Keating and English teacher Marcia Stewart-Warren to create an integrated curriculum aimed at diffusing racism.

With the theme "Man's Inhumanity Toward Man," the curriculum is subtly woven into lessons.

Keating will enhance his coverage of the Holocaust for 10th-graders because he believes some students don't know what the swastika stood for, the murder of millions of Jews and others minorities by the Nazis in World War II.

Monday's lesson showed the dark side of Christopher Columbus, who enslaved the Caribbean natives who helped him.

Cisneros and Casillas said racist incidents at the school are down but Cisneros attributed it to an increased police presence.

"My mom had wanted to move out of town because of the racism," Casillas said. 

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)