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Clovis May End Student Clubs

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The chess and key clubs, Future Farmers of America, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and other student clubs at Clovis High School likely would be dissolved under a proposed policy that some say is really targeted at a student gay-straight alliance.

The Clovis school board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the policy, which would eliminate all noncurricular clubs and activities at Clovis High.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico contends the change is under consideration as a way to prevent the alliance from forming.

Clovis Superintendent Terry Myers denied the alliance request is related to the policy vote.

Gay-straight clubs are common in high schools around the country, and generally aim to prevent bullying and to promote acceptance of gay and lesbian students.

Under federal law, schools cannot stop such an alliance from forming unless they ban all other activities that aren’t directly tied to a class or other school curriculum. Athletics and other activities sanctioned by the New Mexico Activities Association would be exempt from such a ban.

The board’s vote will center on whether the district should continue its current policy of allowing any nondiscriminatory club, or whether it should adopt a new policy allowing only clubs related to school curriculum.

The current policy is known in legal circles as a “limited open forum” for clubs, and the board will consider whether to switch to a “closed forum.”

The ACLU, in a letter sent Monday, urged the Clovis school board to keep its open forum policy. Executive Director Peter Simonson said in an interview that the ACLU would consider suing the district if it votes to adopt a closed forum.

“If going to a closed forum is driven by the attempt to silence a particular viewpoint, we believe that’s not allowable under our state constitution,” Simonson said.

Myers said the gay-straight alliance request did not spur his review of the policy. Myers is finishing his first year in Clovis, and he said he put the question to the board to better understand what kind of policy it wants.

He also said the end of the year is a busy time for students requesting new clubs for next year, which is why the issue is being raised now.

“Being a new superintendent in Clovis, the board asked me to review each policy as it came up and make recommendations or at least bring those to their attention if there’s some question as to what the board truly wants with a particular policy,” Myers said. “This was not prompted by a particular request.”

Simonson said he is “skeptical” of Myers’ explanation, based on a similar 2007 case in Farmington and other cases around the country in which boards voted to adopt closed forums. He said his understanding is the “open forum” question was raised only after students went to the principal requesting approval for a gay-straight alliance.

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