An Orono elementary school is sending third-graders on a day trip to a camp that promotes left-wing gender ideology, a parent told Alpha News.
The parent, who has a student at Orono Intermediate School and asked not to be identified by name, raised concerns with school administrators when she learned the truth about Camp Tanadoona, which is operated by an organization called Camp Fire Minnesota out of Excelsior.
The organization describes “inclusion” as one of its “core values” and trains its staff on navigating “age-appropriate conversations and questions” on “gender and sexuality.”
“Tanadoona welcomes and affirms Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, Intersex, and Two-Spirit (LGBTQIA2S) campers and staff,” its website says.
The organization supports “LGBTQIA2S campers” by offering “boy, girl, and all-gender housing options,” housing “trans and non-binary campers in accordance with their gender identity and preferred cabin option,” and flying the “Pride Flag.”
Campers are also given the opportunity to “share their pronouns in their introductions and during icebreakers,” while staff “wear nametags with their pronouns displayed.”
“And we encourage others to respect those pronouns,” the website emphasizes.
One parent believes such conversations should be left to families, so she reached out to a camp employee seeking clarification.
Alexis Murillo, the camp’s education and digital programs manager, confirmed that camp staff introduce themselves with pronouns, list their pronouns on their nametags, and ask students to do the same when they break off into groups, according to the parent.
Murillo “made it very clear that if the topic came up, they would talk about it to the entire group,” the parent said.
The parent then sent an email to Orono Public Schools Superintendent Kristine Flesher, a copy of which was shared with Alpha News. She said the purpose of her email was to learn why the district chose this particular camp “when there are many other options that do not include these controversial topics.”
“I looked through the staff directory at Camp Tanadoona. Four of the ten staffers go by pronouns that are not exclusive to their biological sex. That means our kids WILL likely wonder what ‘they/them, ella’ means,” she wrote to Flesher.
“[This] opens up questioning and the ability for these individuals to talk about these topics with OUR kids, which they have no business speaking to them about,” she added.
The school has sent students to the camp in the past without issue, Flesher and Principal Mary Jodl told the parent.
They said they have “received very positive feedback” from past field trips to the camp.
“Our staff have also reported no discussions regarding pronouns have occurred,” Flesher wrote.
“We believe the discussions are related to overnight camps compared to the educational field trips,” she said. “The Director reported that staff do not ask students about pronouns or hold discussions about the topic. They do introduce themselves with a pronoun, but do not hold further discussion. We want this to be a positive field trip for all students.”
The parent inquired further since this contradicts what she was told by a camp employee and what is described on the camp website. She said she has now learned that the camp won’t be asking “our kids directly for their pronouns” because the principal asked the camp not to after parents raised concerns.
Camp employees will still list their pronouns on their nametags and in introductions.
“Our kids would have been asked if it wasn’t brought up by many of us parents,” the parent told Alpha News. “Asking kids about their pronouns IS a part of their regular programming to include in their dialogue.”
She felt “misled” and thinks the school “overlooked a big issue that would be of concern to many parents.”
While she does not believe Orono schools are “purposefully trying to expose” young students to this topic, she also thinks the school can do better.
“They certainly aren’t vetting [topics] well in this changing world,” she said.
The school made no move to reconsider Camp Tanadoona as a third-grade field trip, the parent said, noting that her daughter will not be attending the April 29 or May 5 field trips, which are listed on the school’s calendar.
“Camp Fire is a welcoming and inclusive youth development organization. Our programs are designed to support the social and emotional development of youth through nature. We incorporate research-based and age-appropriate best practices into our programming,” a spokesperson told Alpha News.
Alpha News also reached out to the school for comment but did not receive a response.
Camp Fire Minnesota said in its annual report that more than 16,000 Minnesota kids participated in its virtual and in-person programs in 2020.
This article was updated after publication with a statement from Camp Fire Minnesota.