THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES January 8, 1997
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GAY STUDENT ELECTED NONVOTING SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER

By Rosalind Rossi, Education Reporter

Seated center stage with Chicago School Board members at this month's meeting will be the first openly gay student to be elected a nonvoting member.

In fact, said Whitney Young High School senior Miguel Ayala, "I think I am the first openly gay student to sit on any school board [in the nation]." Ayala issued a news release about his election headlined: "Openly Gay Student Elected to Chicago Board of Education."

Although Ayala, 17, did not mention he is gay in his campaign literature, he estimated about half of the 181 student local school council members and student council officers who cast ballots knew he was gay. During the campaign, he said, the issue did not come up.

"If I would have put that on the [campaign] flier, it would have just swerved some people's opinions on me who would otherwise think I'm a qualified candidate," Ayala said. But, he added, "It's obvious I'm not in the closet. People who know me know I'm involved in the Pride Club."

Ayala also is the first Latino to represent students since the 1988 School Reform Act created the student trustee position. As a student member, he can advise the board, but does not have a vote. In his new job, Ayala said, he will lobby for at least two advisory student votes on the board.

One of nine children, Ayala also serves as student representative on the Whitney Young local school council, a member of the student council, and a member of the school's Somos Latinos Coalition, and as president of Whitney Young's Pride Club, which promotes awareness of issues affecting gay, bisexual and transsexual students.

"I'm a good person," he said.

Ayala also has formed his own group, Student Pride USA, which is a national alliance of student gay clubs, currently with members in four states, and is a member of the board of directors of Student Alliance, which has demanded a greater student voice at school board meetings.

Student Alliance Director Phillip Bleicher, himself a former student board member, predicted Ayala would add some "fireworks" to board meetings. Ayala himself said he hopes to propose ideas to the board rather than just react.

Among eight student candidates last month, Ayala won 39.7 percent of 181 votes cast by student members of local school councils and student council officers. The closest competitor garnered 18.2 percent of the vote.

Last updated 1/16/97 by Jean Richter, richter@eecs.Berkeley.EDU