The Clovis Municipal Schools board of education decided Tuesday to allow only curriculum-based student clubs to meet during the school day at Clovis High School, a policy called a closed forum.
The decision came after a month of review on the board’s previous policy allowing all student clubs that meet a list of requirements to meet, whether or not they had a direct curricular tie.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico accused the district of changing the policy to stop the formation of a Gay Straight Alliance club at the high school.
Superintendent Terry Myers called the allegations “unfair.”
Myers said the closed forum change allows non-curricular clubs to meet, as long as they meet before or after the school day.
“Any of our students or group of our students discussing student issues will be given access,” Myers said.
Students spoke to the board before they made their decision, asking that they keep limited open forum.
ACLU of New Mexico Communications Specialist Micah McCoy and lawyer Alexander Smith, both in attendance at the meeting, said they were confused by the decision. They were unsure if the law governing student groups allows the distinction for when they meet.
“It sounds like the intent is where we want it to be,” McCoy said.
The ACLU of New Mexico threatened to sue CMS if they chose closed forum. Smith said if non-curricular clubs are allowed to meet after hours, there wouldn’t be a problem.
CHS student Steven De Los Santos spearheaded the effort to create a GSA at the high school. He was also confused.
“What’s the point of choosing a closed forum if they’re going to allow non-curricular clubs to meet after school? It’s the same,” he said.
De Los Santos expressed some concern that non-curricular clubs won’t have the same support and respect as curricular clubs that are allowed to meet during the school day.
CHS student James Walker, editor of high school newspaper the Purple Press, said he was confused and relieved.
“I’m a little relieved if it follows through the way he’s (Myers) is selling it,” Walker said.
Myers said the review of the policy was not spurred by the request to start a GSA.
“We just needed to define what we want,” he said. “We wanted an even-handed review of our policies and we did that.”
Myers said the policy allows the district to define what is a curricular club and non-curricular club.
Myers said the administration is also reviewing its facility use policies, which will define how much different kinds of groups will pay to use the district’s buildings but will not define which clubs can meet or when.
Myers said non-curricular clubs that meet outside the school day won’t be able to use the high school’s public announcement system but the administration is looking into allowing them to communicate with students in another way.
Myers said if the GSA meets a list of requirements, such as if the group is made up of CHS students or won’t cause an educational disturbance, it will be approved.
“We will figure out a way for our students of all groups to be represented in our district,” he said.
Myers said in the past that about 15 clubs at the high school will most likely be classified as non-curricular and moved outside the school day.
In other business, the board:
• Recognized Distributive Education Clubs of America students for their success at state competitions and wished them good luck at nationals this weekend.
• Recognized the volunteer of the year as Marvin Beachum, who volunteers at Cameo Elementary School.
• Recognized the teacher of the year as Martina Rusk. She works with 2 and 3-year-olds.
• Approved a request for Family, Careers and Community Leaders of America students to travel to the national competition.
• Approved the district’s application for IDEA-B Basic Entitlement and Pre-School Entitlement sub-grant authorization.
• Approved the 2011-2012 instructional calendar. Next school year, school will start after the Curry County Fair on Aug. 22.
• Approved the appointment of two more Review Hearing Authority members. They are Sandra Taylor-Sawyer and Priscilla Hernandez.
• Approved funding for what was previously phase II of the new middle school project. The board will use bond money raised in the August bond election for their 20 percent match of the $4 million project. Deputy Superintendent of Operations Joel Shirley said the district will save about $1.5 million by turning the project into a one phased project.
• Did not approve a request to place a fire escape ramp at the back of the new middle school. The escape ramp would have cost $309,000. Myers said the ramp is not required.
• Approved curriculum for updated k-12 social studies, music media technology, communication skills, baking II and leadership.
• Approved a revision of a board policy governing Special Instruction Programs. The policy needed to be updated to align with PED standards.
• Approved a lease agreement with Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is where CHS Choices alternative school is located. There was no increase in the lease.
• Approved an increase in the fleet service amendment with Adair, Inc. The agreement was based on a tentative allocation.