A federal judge signed an order on Tuesday requiring a Florida school board to allow a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) student organization to form, meet, and be recognized at Vanguard High School in Ocala.
Facing a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the school district agreed to reverse the initial decision to prohibit the club and comply with the consent decree signed by U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard.
“We are very happy about today’s victory,” Vanguard GSA president Dylan Lee, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said . “Now that it’s official, we’re excited for the GSA to start working to create a safer and more welcoming environment at our school when classes start again next week.”
GSAs are student organizations made up of LGBT and straight students who advocate for an end to bullying, harassment and discrimination against LGBT individuals.
After applying for official club status in March, the students were told by Vanguard High Principal Milford Lankford that he was “uncomfortable” with a GSA on “his campus.” When the students tried to appeal to Superintendent Jim Yancey, he also refused to approve the group, saying it was not age appropriate.
“While it was a long fight to make it happen, I’m glad that we’ll start the school year with the GSA being treated just the same as any other student club,” Vanguard GSA vice-president Sarah Kirk said. “We had 45 students sign the petition to say they wanted a GSA at our school, and now the organization to start making Vanguard High a safer place.”
Eric W. Dolan
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