New Law Jeopardizes After-School Organizations

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A new state law could shut down the two extracurricular clubs at Rim Country Middle School the Kiwanis-sponsored Builders Club and the teacher-sponsored Outdoor Adventure Club.

Senate Bill 1384, which was signed into law by Gov. Jane Hull April 27, makes it unlawful for schools offering instruction in grades seven and eight "to discriminate against pupils who wish to conduct a meeting within a limited open forum on the basis of religious content, political content, or philosophical content ..."

What this means, RCMS Principal Frank Larby said, is that if you allow one club, you must allow all clubs.

"This had already been in existence at the high school level, and that means you could end up with a Bible Club or a Republican Club, or any kind of philosophical club," Larby said.

The fate of the school's clubs has not been decided, but banning them, Larby said, is one option.

"The decision is not mine, but if we are going to have non-curricular clubs, then we have created a limited open forum and have to allow any type of club to come on campus."

Larby said he is currently researching the issue and getting the input of various groups.

"We're going to listen to the site council and the staff," he said. "Then we'll present the information to the board of education and hopefully get some direction from them."

Larby said the impetus for the new law came from a group that wanted to start a Bible Club at Desert Sky Middle School in Deer Valley.

"The district said, 'No,' that the laws pertaining to limited open forum applied to the secondary level," he said. "The group got the attention of lawmakers, and the bill was filed by Sen. Ken Bennett, chairman of the education committee."

While Larby has not yet discussed the matter with Kiwanis officials, he said another option is to rent the building to the group to hold Builders Club meetings after teachers leave at 3:40 p.m.

A recent Supreme Court ruling upheld after-hours use of school facilities by religious and other groups, Larby said.

"We might be able to work it that way," he said.

The Outdoor Adventure Club is sponsored by two teachers, Scott Davidson and Coby Muckelroy. Neither was available for comment.

The Builders Club was formed at RCMS several years ago, Al Campeas, past president of the local Kiwanis chapter said. He said he thinks it would be sad to lose the benefits the club provides to young people.

"It's completely non-sectarian and it teaches good citizenship," Campeas said.

"I can't believe they would even think about doing away with it."

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