Did Clovis Unified religious club break rules by giving students pizza? What we found

Reality Check is a Fresno Bee series holding those in power to account and shining a light on their decisions. Have a tip? Email tips@fresnobee.com.

Some Clovis parents objected when a Christian group on campus offered free pizza in exchange for a session of prayer and evangelizing/indoctrinating. But the group was just one of dozens of approved student clubs on campus that are free to use school facilities before class, after school or during lunchtime to build community around their values and beliefs.

But not just anyone can address students: Any club activity has to be initiated by a student, including inviting a guest speaker or partnering with an organization.

These clubs include creative and academic ones, such as drama and chess; identity-relating and exploring clubs, such as the Gay-Straight Alliance and culture clubs; and religious ones, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Muslim, and Sikh clubs.

Each Clovis school offers its own set of student-started clubs and not all schools offer the same clubs across the district.

The district also assumes parental consent, allowing all students to approach any club, unless parents submit a written statement or exclusion form requesting their child not participate in a specific club.

However, this exclusion form doesn’t appear to be listed on all intermediate and high school sites, and a couple (Granite Ridge and Clovis North) don’t list either the clubs’ policy or form online as of Wednesday afternoon.

The Bee emailed Clovis Unified to inquire about the district’s student club policies, how and by whom these clubs are established, and how frequently are parents notified or involved in club updates and participation. Here’s what the district’s spokesperson, Kelly Avants, said:

Which schools offer student clubs? And who starts them?

Clovis Unified students in grades 7 through 12 throughout the district can participate in student clubs offered at their school site.

District spokesperson Kelly Avants said every school has student clubs based on what its student body requests, and only students can start them. No parents teachers, Clovis residents with or without student family members at the district can begin a club.

“Clubs are totally student-driven,” Avants said, “and based on what students want.”

Are all clubs offered at all Clovis schools? Or does each school have its own clubs?

Some clubs might be common across schools, but the district does not keep a “master list,” Avants said. She couldn’t answer which clubs are duplicated or offered in multiple locations across the district’s 10 comprehensive secondary school sites (five intermediate and five high schools).

Each school lists their available clubs online, Avants said.

Student clubs can focus on creative, academic, cultural or religious topics or activities, and can meet during non-instructional hours including during lunch periods, before classes and after school.

Based on public information posted by Clovis Unified’s intermediate and high schools, The Bee found all 10 schools have a Fellowship of Christian Athletes club and an allyship and/or LGBTQ+ community support student club. Alta Sierra Intermediate appeared to be the only school without a Latino student club. Other religious and cultural clubs aren’t as established district-wide as these three types of clubs.

How are student club faculty advisors selected? Do they get compensated for supervising a club?

If a student is interested in starting a club, Avants said they must find a faculty member to be the advisor, which is part of having Clovis Unified clubs be student-led and organized.

“When they petition to start their club, a student must provide affirmation that they have a faculty advisor,” she said.

Faculty or staff advisors are assigned, “solely to supervise the students,” Avants said, and can sometimes conduct community service projects off-campus and require adult supervision.

These club-supervising teachers receive a stipend to offset the hours they devote outside of classroom instruction to be an advisor to a student club.

Schools share club updates in their morning announcements, do parents also receive these?

Avants said clubs can request for an announcement of theirs be included in school-to-home communication at the discretion of student leaders.

“Usually, these announcements are about activities, field trips or guest speakers that students in the club have arranged,” she said.

It also isn’t unusual, Avants said, for a school’s morning announcements to include details or updates about club activities on campus that day.

“Our leadership students and activities offices typically manage school announcements,” she said. “Parents can find copies of weekly and daily announcements on school websites or in some cases in the Google Classroom site for their child’s grade.”

Do parents need to sign a permission slip for their child to join a club?

Permission slips are not required for a child to join a student club or attend a club’s meeting. If a club organizes an off-campus field trip or activity, Avants said additional permission slips may be required then.

However, parents can opt their children out of participating in any club they don’t want their kid to participate in, Avants said.

Clovis High students board a bus from campus to go to classes at CART. A student group recently got district approval for changes to the dress code.
Clovis High students board a bus from campus to go to classes at CART. A student group recently got district approval for changes to the dress code.

What if a parent doesn’t want their child to interact with club?

Student clubs are regulated under board policy 6145, Co-Curricular And Extra-Curricular Activities.

Even so, Clovis Unified school web pages quote policy 2505, which Avants said is outdated because the policy has been renumbered, though the text remains the same. She said the district will be updating its webpages.

In the policy’s Administrative Regulation document, point A-11 reads an annual notice will be sent out to parents about the student clubs the district recognizes for the academic year. This notice must include, without drawing attention to any particular club, all the clubs at the child’s respective school with the club name, brief description, and the club advisor’s name.

This same notice should also let parents and guardians know their right to inform their child’s school of any club in which they don’t wish their kid to take part. If parents wish for their child not to participate in a specific club, they are required to send a written notice to their school stating so, or the school will presume consent is granted for their child to participate in all clubs.

“Parents are notified of our club opt-out options after schools hold their “club rush” days where kids find out about the clubs available at school,” Avants said, “and the lists of clubs are on websites.”

Avants said this information is provided to parents every year, and the club opt-out form — titled the Club Exclusion Form — is available year-round online.

What is available online right now?

Only two intermediate schools — Alta Sierra and Reyburn — clearly shared a link to their Club Exclusion Forms at the bottom of their clubs’ webpages. These two intermediate schools, plus Clark and Kastner, quoted the nonexistent policy 2505 (now numbered 6145) as of Wednesday afternoon. Granite Ridge Intermediate did not have either, a hyperlink to an exclusion form or the quoted policy, on its clubs’ webpage or in the document with all its clubs listed.

As for the district’s high schools, there was more variation on what their clubs’ webpages shared.

Clovis East High School appeared to be the only 9-12 grade school that publicly shares its Club Exclusion Form on its clubs’ webpage — hyperlinked into the text where it reads “via this form” —and quotes policy 2505 (now numbered 6145). Clovis High School quotes the policy and, though it doesn’t appear to share its exclusion form online, its clubs’ page does state parents can return the form in their registration packet if they wish their student doesn’t participate with a certain organization or club.

Clovis West High School’s webpage does quote the district’s clubs policy — erroneously numbered 2505 like in the other schools’ webpages — but does not guide as to how to submit a written exclusion notice.

Buchanan High School shared club travel forms, request sheets and informational guides for students and club advisors on their clubs’ webpage, but did not have a distinct link for an exclusion form or policy quoted. Clovis North High School — like Granite Ridge, its partnered intermediate school — did not have either the exclusion form or the quoted policy, on its clubs’ webpage or in the document with all its clubs listed.

All Clovis Unified board policies can be publicly consulted online at https://boardpolicies.cusd.com/.