Florida school board ruling leaves gay-straight club in limbo
A middle school club in Florida working to end bullying of LGBT students will be allowed to continue meeting through the end of the school year while local school officials continue to debate whether it should be allowed to exist afterward.
The Orlando Sentinel reported on Monday that the Lake County School Board voted 4-1 to give preliminary approval to a policy (PDF) requiring middle-school clubs to “promote critical thinking, business skills, athletic skills, and performing arts.” The board will revisit the issue with a second vote in June 2013.
In the meantime, the group that prompted the re-evaluation of board policy, the Gay-Straight Alliance club at Carver Middle School in Leesburg, Florida, will be allowed to meet through the end of the school year in June 2013. The board allowed the club to form in the wake of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
At least one board member who opposed the formation of the club, Bill Mathias, said it would be allowed to continue under the new rule, but Steve Johnson, the board’s attorney, disagreed. The lone board member who voted against the rule, Rosanne Brandeburg, said it would open the board up to further litigation because it was vague.
The rule requires each campus organization to file an application that includes a club charter, a list of member “qualifications” and rules of conduct, as well as signed consent forms by the parents of each club member. A district spokesperson said the gay-straight group, formed by a 14-year-old bisexual student, Bayli Silberstein, would be allowed to continue if it met the criteria set forth by the new measure.
“There’s only about a month left of school,” Silberstein told the newspaper on May 2, 2013. “But that’s still a month we can use to start doing the work to make this school a safer and more welcoming place.”
["Diverse group of middle-school children in class" via Shutterstock]