Friday, May 23, 2008
Clovis High School Yearbook Features Gays
CLOVIS Clovis High School students are defending their inclusion of photos and interviews with gay couples in the yearbook after criticism by a former New Mexico lieutenant governor and Christian groups.
Student editor-in-chief Maggie Chavez and staff member Jessie Hardison said Thursday the decision to feature gay couples was made after much consideration and discussion by the staff.
"We just wanted to show that there is a diversity. There (are) gay and lesbian couples in the school and they have a right to be in the yearbook just as much as anybody else does," Chavez said.
Former Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley, who described himself as a parent and concerned Christian member of the community, said he is upset.
"I think it's highly inappropriate to place that in that venue," he said. "That is no place for that type of negligent exploitation of our kids. I do not in any way believe this reflects the attitudes and values of this community."
Photos of two lesbian couples, along with narratives describing their relationships, were included in a features section titled "Do you want to go out?" Also pictured on the two-page spread were nine heterosexual couples.
School staffers routinely monitor the yearbook for obscenity, libel and other matters of legal concern before it is published, but supervisor Carol Singletary said it is a student-produced publication.
She said the content featuring gay students wasn't censored by administrators.
"It didn't violate privacy. It wasn't obscene. It wasn't libelous. ... It didn't violate any of the district policies," Singletary said.
Chavez and Hardison said they hold strong Christian values but the issue involves discrimination. Chavez said openly gay couples can be seen at Clovis High School, often walking hand-in-hand.
"This is in the community. (Students) are going to have to deal with it in their lifetime," Chavez said.
Hardison said male gay couples were invited to participate in the yearbook feature but declined, fearing repercussions and possible violence.
Bradley said he serves on a strategy team for the school district and, as a businessman, has sponsored and endorsed school programs.
"If this is indeed the direction that this school system is going to take and continue to promote, then don't look to me for any more donations," he said.
Will Cockrell, member of a leadership group at Central Baptist Church, said Christians throughout Clovis are mobilizing to speak out at next week's school board meeting.
"We don't think that it reflects anywhere close to the attitudes and the morals of the community," he said. "I don't have a child in school but I'm appalled."
Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm said she has received calls from community members on both sides of the dispute.
Seidenwurm said it involves First Amendment rights, privacy issues and community standards, all of which are equally important and must be considered. But she said no school policies were violated and there are no legal concerns.
"We're trying to look at it from all sides and address the issue," she said.
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