A middle school in central Oregon pulled its students from an outdoor educational camp after some parents and students expressed concern over the presence of nonbinary and transgender folks serving as cabin counselors. The camp's director, however, said they were acting in accordance with the state's civil rights laws.
According to a report in the Central Oregon Daily, Culver Middle School superintendent Stefanie Garber said she made the "no-win" decision to pull all Culver Middle School students from Camp Tamarack in Singer last Monday after some students complained.
"More than one of our boys' cabins expressed that they were uncomfortable to our teacher," Garber told the Daily. "They had learned that their counselor, who was physically female, identified as non-binary and they just kept saying, 'How come we have to have a girl? I'm uncomfortable.'"
Garber decided to send a school bus to pick up the students not long after she learned of the concerns. Her decision was not well-received by all the students, some of whom were left in tears according to Camp Tamarack executive director Charlie Anderson.
In a statement released last Tuesday, Anderson said "it is our ongoing mission to ensure that Outdoor School is a safe place to work, volunteer, and send children, regardless of someone's race, religion, sex, color, disability sexual orientation or gender identity." He added the camp follows "the rules laid forth by the Oregon Department of Education."
Anderson later clarified in an email to the Central Oregon Daily the camp has private changing and shower areas for students and counselors, but that campers do not normally shower during the three-day Outdoor School camp.
Bend-La Pine Schools superintendent Dr. Steven Cook noted in a statement that the camp is an optional activity for students and attendance is not required for graduation. He went on to note that a person's gender identity is protected under state and federal guidance, and described the district as a strong ally to the LGBTQ+ community.
"We want our families and students to know that we stand in support of the rights of LGBTQ+ students," Cook said in a statement. "Our schools and our communities should be welcoming places for all students and Bend-La Pine Schools is committed to doing our part to help all students feel safe, supported, and that they belong."
For her part, Garber lamented the difficult nature of the decision, which displeased some parents and students.
"From the beginning, it felt like a no-win situation," she told the Daily. "No matter what decision was made, there were going to be unhappy people."