Following accusations of transphobia and a hasty removal of students from a camp, a Central Oregon school district met with an outdoor school last month to discuss their future together.
Culver Schools Superintendent Stefanie Garber and Camp Tamarack Executive Director Charlie Anderson released a joint statement Wednesday following the district’s controversial removal last month of its students a few hours into a three-day trip.
The letter explained that district and camp officials met to discuss how communications between the two organizations could improve.
“We will all work to respect the values and identities of the people who participate in Outdoor School,” the statement read. “We will all work to make sure we are communicating with families before their students leave for camp so that they can make an informed decision about their child’s participation in Outdoor School.”
The statement comes more than two weeks after district leaders bused its students home from the camp after learning some nonbinary counselors — who are in high school — would stay in cabins with students, a standard practice at the camp.
Garber said at the time she decided to pull the students from the camp about 15 minutes after she first heard about the cabin arrangements, as well as false statements about the camp.
Anderson told OPB on Thursday that the camp won’t change its programming and will still have nonbinary counselors in cabins. He hopes providing a more advanced notice will give families the opportunity to opt-out sending their children to the camp if they choose.
“It seems like some families didn’t take the time to really read the parents’ information,” he said. “We’ll make it really clear that we are the rainbow — we’re everyone.”
Much less clear is what changes Culver School District will implement. When asked if her district could’ve done anything differently to avoid ending all of the campers’ Outdoor School experience, Garber declined to answer and instead expanded on how the camp could have communicated better.
“We’re not going to spend time looking in the rearview mirror,” Garber said. “We’re just looking forward.”
Immediately after the incident, Anderson said the district had discriminated against his staff by removing its students with little to no warning, and that Garber’s decision had left staff emotionally shaken.
She originally said some students were concerned about showering and undressing in front of counselors. But according to the joint statement, that was misinformation — students had private changing rooms and did not use showers during outdoor school.
Garber told OPB some families would still choose to opt out their students. She said she hopes students are able to attend the camp next year; the district is looking for another option for this year’s sixth-graders.
Anderson said he’s still optimistic about his camp’s future with Culver students.
“I think this is a chance to show that we can come together and listen, and I just hope we can work toward a better future,” he said.