ODE Ruling on Civil Rights and Title 9

SSC student faces discrimination and ODE makes a ruling.


Katelin Walker

SSC student faces discrimination and ODE rules on behalf of Faith Vadelund.

Deborah Barnes, Publisher

Oregon Department of Education officials say there is evidence showing violations of U.S. Civil Rights and Title 9 regulations regarding actions that have occurred during competitions of the student leadership organization “Future Natural Resources Leaders”.   The complaint, against the CTSO, which was filed on behalf of Sabin-Schellenberg Professional Technical Center’s Forestry student Faith Vadelund, was in response to statements made by Advisors and others associated with other schools in Oregon from an event that occurred at a tournament in Tillamook on October 26, 2019. 

Vadelund who was preparing to compete in the log-rolling competition in October, was stopped by a volunteer judge who graduated from Sweet Home High School who asked her, “What, is this a transgender event now”?  He then followed up by asking her, “Do you know what you’re doing?” Sweet Home High School says that the graduate had no responsibility representing their program and has banned him from judging future events. Vadelund was interested in competing at a different level to get better at her craft.   She had fewer female competitors so her next option was to compete in the so-called Jack category, rather than the female category labeled, Jill.

Lori Loeffler, who teaches at Tillamook High School and is the Advisor for that school’s Forestry’s CTSO reportedly made the comment that Vadelund would embarrass the boys if she did well.  Vadelund went on to place second in the log-rolling event. Loeffler did not return calls to comment on the event. Vadelund says she has also gone through some bullying from others at the events since October.  

Peter Matzka is the State Advisor for the FNRL organization.   He says the group will now go through an evolution, “Some rules have caused some lack of clarity since we began the organization 10 years ago.  There were no rules or policies to be made aware of.”   He also said he wishes it could be “identity neutral” and says he is not sure how the ODE decision will be embraced by members of the organization.  “I don’t see this as a huge thing except for now we can’t have levels.”   When asked why there couldn’t be he said, “Well, maybe we could have novice and advanced but that seems less inclusive.”   

SSC Administrator Karen Phillips was notified of the comments and contacted ODE of her concerns. Today, the state agency ruled that all Student Leadership Organizations must remain gender-neutral – meaning there are no separate events for females and males.    CTSO competitions are an offshoot of the curriculum taught in CTE courses that are based on business and industry standards leading to the decision made by ODE.

Vadelund and her Advisor, Katelin Walker, are pleased with the ruling from ODE.  However, they are both concerned with how others may possibly react.  “It scares me to death and I already am facing backlashes from others”, said Vadelund. The next competition is set for February 29, at Knappa High School.   ODE will have two officials on hand at the event to help explains the policies and regulations under Title 9.   Phillips will also be there to lend support, as will Rex Putnam High School Administrator Ryan Richardson.   Vadelund is currently a senior at RPHS who hopes to continue the other passion she found in the SSC Health Sciences program. 

Phillips says, “With any kind of change, some will accept the new information and align their practices with the policies.   Others will struggle and we will expect to see some bumps in the road.   We need to keep coming back to the federal and state regulations, which we should have been doing since these rules were set into practice in 1972.”

ODE officials say there will be a communication plan for all Oregon CTSOs in the near future to make sure all those involved in the organization understand and know the regulations of Title 9 and Civil Rights pertaining to students, including those in competitions.