In May 1986, seven students and two adult hikers from Oregon Episcopal School died on Mount Hood in a severe storm.
"We asked Mr. Toutonghi and Outside's editors to consider the negative impact of revisiting this tragedy on the families and friends of those who died, as well as on those who survived," OES head of school Mo Copeland wrote to parents and alumni in an Oct. 3 email. "We are disheartened that the editors chose to publish the article despite requests from OES and several survivors not to do so."
The school explicitly discouraged publication of the article, a decision Copeland explained in a statement to WW.
"Oregon Episcopal School has a long-standing position of not encouraging or assisting with media inquiries about the Mt. Hood Climb. The Outside magazine article, 'House of Mourning,' was written and offered for publication by author Pauls Toutonghi without the school's knowledge or consent," Copeland said.
"Our priority continues to be support of, and respect for, the Climb families. As always, they remain in our close thoughts and prayers, with sustained wishes of healing and comfort for their loss."
Toutonghi says he didn't know about the 1986 deaths until he enrolled his children at OES.
"Through Mt. Hood Climb Service Day—which is observed every year—and through the telling of the story of the climb in the Lower School chapel, I learned the basics of the story," he says. "It compelled me deeply, the way this event—which was so horrific and tragic—has been the root of a profound, decades-long commitment to serving the Portland community."
Toutonghi, who has published three books and written for the New Yorker and Sports Illustrated, among other publications, did not take issue with OES' pushback. Toutonghi says he respects the school's stance and will continue to send his children there.
"The school is right, I think, in saying that its primary duty is to protect the families of the climb," he says. "I don't agree that my story is something against which anyone needs to be protected—but everything that the administration does is guided by that first principle—so they have to be overly-cautious. It is not easy to run a school—with many different constituencies, past and present."
Toutonghi's article is on newstands today.