FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 26, 2007
CONTACT: Whitney Potter (505) 266 5915 ext. 1003, Cell (505) 507 9898
FARMINGTON—Controversy over the creation of a Gay-Straight Alliance club at Piedra Vista High School (Farmington) prompted the intervention of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico today. In a letter to Piedra Vista Principal Ann Gattis, the ACLU affirmed the school’s “legal obligation to permit the GSA to form,” despite religious objections by some parents in the community.
“The reactionary sentiments of a few vocal parents do not override the school’s free speech obligation to treat all non-curricular clubs alike,” said ACLU Executive Director Peter Simonson. “The school either maintains a fair and open forum for clubs to exist, or it doesn’t. It cannot pick and choose which clubs it is going to endorse based on the narrow set of beliefs of some parents.”
The ACLU’s letter lists seven recent cases in which federal courts protected the establishment of GSAs. In one such case, the court explained:
The [school] may be uncomfortable about students discussing sexual orientation and how all students need to accept each other, whether gay or straight . . . . [H]owever, . . . [the school] cannot censor the students’ speech to avoid discussions on campus that cause them discomfort or represent an unpopular viewpoint.
Colin ex rel. Colin v. Orange Unified Sch. Dist., 83 F. Supp. 2d 1135, 1149 (C.D. Cal. 2000).
Simonson said, “GSAs are intended to foster tolerance and respect among students, and a learning environment that’s free of bullying. Why would any parent oppose those things in their children’s school? Participation in the club is entirely up to the student, as it is with all student clubs.”