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Local residents pack school board meeting to debate gay-straight alliance

Tuesday, February 19, 2013
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TAVARES, Fla. — More than 100 parents, students and local residents packed a Lake County, Fla., school board meeting on Monday to voice their opinion on a possible ban on extracurricular clubs after a student applied to form a gay-straight alliance club.

The school board is considering eliminating all non-academic clubs from middle and high school campuses instead of allowing a student to form a gay-straight alliance.

Bayli Silberstein
Photo via the Orlando Sentinel

The controversy started after Bayli Silberstein, 14, applied to form the gay-straight alliance at Carver Middle School in Leesburg, Fla.

Silberstein, who is openly bisexual, said her application was denied last school year, and when she reapplied last November, she never received a response from the school’s principal about whether it was approved or denied.

Dozens of attendees at Monday’s meeting wore red shirts emblazoned with “Standing with Bayli,” many of whom were overcome with emotion as they urged the board to allow the gay-straight group to meet, reported the Orlando Sentinel.

The American Civil Liberties Union, citing the federal Equal Access Act, has advised the school district that it cannot pick and choose which clubs to allow based on what they think students should or should not discuss.

According to the ACLU, Silberestein wanted to form the alliance as a way to combat bullying against LGBT students. Silberstein’s application detailed instances of children being shoved or called names because of their sexual orientation.

The school board has not denied Silberstein’s second application, but in a workshop earlier this month, instead drafted a policy that would put an end to any club that is not tied to a specific class.

The policy, if adopted, would effectively ban the gay-straight alliance club from forming.

A decision from the board is not expected until April.

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