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Fla. school board tables rules discussion to avoid allowing gay-straight alliance

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

LEESBURG, Fla. — Efforts to establish a gay-straight student alliance at a Florida middle school failed after school board members voted Monday night to table discussions about proposed rules for the club.

Bayli Silberstein, an openly bisexual 14-year-old, at Carver Middle School in Leesburg, Fla., has led the campaign to start the GSA to counter bullying at the school and provide a safe haven for LGBT students.

Bayli 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.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is backing the gay-straight group, said that under the federal Equal Access Act, Bayli’s club is protected because schools cannot discriminate against non-academic clubs based on the topics they discuss. If a school has one non-academic club, then it must treat others the same, the group holds.

At issue now is a change in state law — signed by GOP Gov. Rick Scott on Monday and goes in effect July 1 — that does not define which grades are protected by a federal law that bans schools from discriminating against non-academic clubs.

The law removed the definition of “secondary” schools and did not replace it with a clear definition, leaving it up for debate as to whether a middle school is protected, reported the Orlando Sentinel.

School board attorney Steve Johnson said that based on his review of other Florida laws, his interpretation is that “secondary” schools mean high schools — not middle schools. He claimed the school board isn’t required to apply the federal law to middle schools.

Board members said they wanted to take more time to “workshop” the rules in light of the change in state law.

Bayli left Monday night’s school board meeting fighting back tears after board members voted 4-1 to table the discussion that could have allowed the proposed GSA to form before the end of the school year.

Without any action Monday, school principals are now left to decide how to handle school clubs.

Following the vote, Joyce Hamilton, an ACLU regional director, said she was disappointed by the move and will evaluate whether or not to take legal action.

“I am concerned about the environment that is now created in the school that is being perpetuated by the adults who profess … to have the best interest of all students in mind,” she said.

Silberstein said she will continue to push for the GSA to be allowed.

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19 more reader comments:

  1. but im sure if a mormon group or a christian group wanted to be made it would pass without any sort of trouble.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:07pm
  2. Ugh…

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:08pm
  3. Yep… stupid right?… :I

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:09pm
  4. thats why florida is a big joke. im so glad i dont live there anymore

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:10pm
  5. If anyone needs a safe haven from bullying, it’s middle schoolers. When will people just open their eyes?

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:12pm
  6. :(

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:12pm
  7. Hey guess what I know Leesburg, I preformed at their high school in marching band for another school in 9th grade when I used to live in FL, lived in central FL fro 7.5 years. Never going back. They had plenty of Christian groups at my middle school. Not one gay group. I went though so many personal problems not understanding who I was or why I was – thanks shitty FL education system.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:13pm
  8. Because it is the talking about it that makes kids that way?

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:14pm
  9. hineious

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:21pm
  10. I tried to start a GSA at my Tallahassee, FL, high school during my senior year. My principal was totally on board–even did some research of the benefits of a GSA before I met with him– and we had teacher sponsors, but the GSA plans fell through because everyone was so afraid of what angry parents could do (and the legal battle that could ensue). Damn shame.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:22pm
  11. Chickenshit.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:22pm
  12. the students need to take this to the SCOTUS.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:23pm
  13. Me too – New York State rocks.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 7:02pm
  14. Fear…always allows ignorance…

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 7:03pm
  15. How unfair! It sounds like the unclear wording of the new Florida law may be ground for a legal battle…so we’ll have to wait and see.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 8:00pm
  16. I believe every school should have someone or a support group for glbt to turn too if they need a safe haven to be themselves and to deny them that is wrong. I don’t care if its elementary school or a university they should have resources to go to if they identify as glbt.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 8:55pm
  17. I guess Florida doesn’t care about the bullying epidemic.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 11:10pm
  18. I’m sorry… what FUCKIN’ year is this?

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 11:21pm
  19. itis 2013, 14 nations on this earth recognize same sex marriage, yet we in the good ole USA still have our heads in the sand.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 11:33pm