Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

The All Pueblo Council of Governors hosted a press conference that boasted a number of prominent legislators, tribal leaders, and education advocates who came together in unprecedented numbers to call for the Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC) Director Rachel Gudgel to step down after allegations of racist, homophobic and sexist remarks surfaced.

Gudgel, who has served as director of LESC since 2015, has had a long history of allegations over repeated racist remarks she has made, especially concerning Native Americans. Despite repeated calls for her termination by members of the Legislature, Gudgel remains in her position. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that Gudgel wrote an apology letter to Native leaders this week, saying she regretted her “ignorant choice of words and cavalier attitude.” 

The apology was not enough.

“I believe we have no choice but to call for the LESC Director to resign. I am informing you that as a member of LESC, I will go on record to make that recommendation. I believe that if we fail to act, we will perpetuate the systemic and institutional racism we say must end,” Rep. Derrick Lente (D-Sandia Pueblo) stated in a press release. 

Wilfred Herrera Jr., Chairman of All Pueblo Council of Governors, also condemned Gudgel’s continued employment in the LESC during the press conference. “I implore you as leaders of the State Senate to take immediate corrective action in addressing a blight that continues to occupy the public discourse and distract from real work of doing what is right and necessary for our students and for New Mexico,” Chairman Herrera Jr. said. 

“The legitimacy and integrity of the Director of the Legislative Education Committee are called into question as to whether Ms. Gudgel can undertake her duties without implicit bias or racism overshadowing her role to improve the education of thousands of Native American students in the State of New Mexico. Given what we know of Ms. Gudgel’s behavior, and the extent of actions taken to address Ms. Gudgel’s behavior, and the importance of addressing Native American education in New Mexico with respect, professionalism, and empathy, we request that Ms. Gudgel be removed immediately from her role as director fo the Legislative Education Study Committee and that a personal apology be issued by Ms. Gudgel for disrespecting Native Americans, a major New Mexico populace,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a press release.

“No child should ever be subjected to this. No student should ever have to experience that in our schools, no parent should ever have to worry that their child is the target of racial acts. And, no tribal leader should have to fight endlessly to correct historic wrongs, bad policy, racial injustice, and systemic inequities. Unfortunately, this is the reality for Indigenous People today,” Pueblo of Acoma Governor Brian Vallo said at the press conference. 

The large gathering of Tribal leaders, legislators, and education advocates in attendance on Friday demonstrated the fierce backlash that Gudgel has received. The message to the LESC voting members of the board at the press conference was clear: Rachel Gudgel has to go.