District ends Outdoor School trip after some students learn they’d share cabins with non-binary counselors
CULVER, Ore. (KTVZ) — Tensions and questions arose after the Culver School District’s superintendent pulled sixth-grade students out of an outdoor education at Camp Tamarack near Sisters a week ago.
The reason behind the sudden Outdoor School departure, just hours after arrival: Some students were assigned to share cabins with counselors who identified as nonbinary.
Culver School District Superintendent Stefanie Garber, who made what she called a very difficult decision, told NewsChannel 21 on Monday, “We got a call from a teacher — there are two teachers on site from our district — saying that there were two cabins of boys that had come up to him that were very uncomfortable with the arrangements (after) they learned their cabin assignments.”
The superintendent said the students expressed discomfort about sharing a cabin space where they may have to change their clothes in front of nonbinary counselors.
“We made a decision to respect all the students,” Garber said. “The high school students, the middle school students — just retreat, let the grown-ups figure it out, and try again.”
The school district’s actions did evoke criticism from some in the community.
On the Pride in Central Oregon Facebook group, one person commented that the district’s actions were hateful and fueled an onslaught of hate speech and transphobic comments.
Camp Tamarack Executive Director Charlie Anderson sent the following statement on Monday to NewsChannel 21:
“Since 2013, Camp Tamarack has been working with teacher and students from Central Oregon to provide a 3 day 2 night Outdoor School experience. In that time, we have continued to work to provide a positive experience for ALL.
“Camp Tamarack does not discriminate in the recruitment of staff or high school volunteers on the basis of race, religion, sex, color, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, national or ethnic origin.
“We believe in the inspirational power of the outdoors to break down barriers, foster connections, learn from each other, and grow as a community.
“We know that becoming the best organization we can be requires a constant assessment of our program. Whether it’s making our site more accessible, reaching more communities, or creating a more inclusive environment, we are always striving to learn and grow.
“We believe that the most inclusive and effective way to improve what we do is through collaboration with both our team and our community. The more minds, backgrounds, experiences and perspectives that come together, the stronger we are.
Garber said, “We have had a fantastic relationship with Camp Tamarack for years, and I don’t suspect that the relationship is going to change. This was an uncomfortable circumstance, and I’m sure that we can rebuild, regroup and have it be that same great relationship.”
Garber said the sixth-grade kids will still get an Outdoor School experience and the district is in the process of planning it.
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