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Santa Fe, New Mexico (Reuters) - A school board in Clovis, New Mexico, voted to ban all extra-curricular clubs from meeting during school hours after a gay-straight alliance applied to become a club.
School officials call it coincidental that the alliance applied while school policies were being reviewed, but representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico say they are concerned about the timing of the decision.
"This sort of tactic has been used in the past by school districts to discourage gay-straight clubs from forming," Micah McCoy, communications specialist for ACLU of New Mexico, said on Wednesday. "A lot of alarm bells went off when we saw this."
In a vote Tuesday night, the Clovis school board decided to prohibit any extra-curricular club from meeting during school hours or using school resources to meet and gather.
Meetings for the gay-straight alliance were going to be held after school all along, said James Walker, a senior at the school. But without resources or the ability to hang flyers or make announcements, it will be difficult to publicize meetings, he said.
"Now it's almost an underground operation," he said.
The gay-straight alliance is meant to create a safe place where students can get together and work toward greater tolerance and make schools safer places for gay, lesbian transgender and questioning students, McCoy said.
Clovis is in eastern New Mexico, on the border with Texas. There are 15 extra-curricular clubs currently at the school.
Calls to Clovis High School principal Wayne Marshall and district superintendent Terry Myers were not returned on Wednesday.
But Myers, who is in his first year at Clovis, told the Albuquerque Journal this week that the gay-straight alliance's application did not trigger the policy review.
"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, according to the newspaper. "This was not prompted by a particular request."
This isn't the first time the high school has gotten attention for an issue involving gay and lesbian students.
In 2008, the school changed its yearbook policy after a public outcry when lesbian couples were featured on a couples page of the yearbook. Now, the principal reviews any content that may be controversial.
Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Greg McCune