"I thought that it was important on a statewide level that people got involved," says Jesse Lopez, president of Albuquerque Pride. "There needs to be legislation at some point that says we need to create safe zones in all our school systems."
Lopez called for the Sunday, May 1 rally after school officials banned certain student clubs from meeting during the school day. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico says the decision was a reaction to a Gay-Straight Alliance at Clovis High School. Such groups are formed nationwide as havens for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender—and straight—students.
The Clovis School Board voted unanimously at the end of April to prohibit non-curricular clubs from meeting during school hours. All such organizations can't use school resources or make announcements, which certainly won't win the Alliance any popularity points with other groups, Lopez points out.
District Superintendent Terry Myers told the press the new rule didn't have anything to do with the LGBT group.
Student Steven De Los Santos made his first request to for the Gay-Straight Alliance in early March. Though Principal Wayne Marshall initially approved the club, he changed his mind shortly thereafter and decided to pass it along to the superintendent, according to De Los Santos. Weeks passed, and there was no word, the Clovis High School senior says. The Alliance still hasn't been given the green light—even if it follows all the new requirements for non-curricular clubs.
Safe zones and Gay-Straight Alliances are essential to the health of young people around the country, says Albuquerque Pride President Lopez. "We're acknowledging the fact that so many people are committing suicide because of bullying," he says. "We have to hold superintendents, school boards and principals accountable for things that may happen if they don't take a look at these issues and their long-term effects."
De Los Santos describes Clovis, population 38,000, as religious. He says people are picked on, and some are afraid to come out of the closet. "Some kids don't have a safe place to go, and I wanted to create that so they could have people that just accept them for them." Still, he adds, there's quite a bit of support for LGBT students.
He’s spoken with Superintendent Myers since the ban was voted in, he says. He is confident the Alliance will be permitted,
De Los Santos says seeing people from around New Mexico drive to Clovis to stand up for his school club was amazing. "It just felt unreal, just that we could get the word out that far."