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Lawsuit challenging Fla. school’s denial of gay-straight alliance moves forward

Friday, March 7, 2014
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TAVERES, Fla. — Students fighting to have a gay-straight alliance club at their middle school in central Florida have won a partial victory for the time being.

Lake-County-School-BoardA federal judge on Thursday denied an attempt to throw out the students’ lawsuit against the School Board of Lake County, just northwest of Orlando.

But the judge also refused to issue a preliminary injunction that would have allowed the club to meet immediately at Carver Middle School.

The students’ lawsuit instead will be allowed to move forward to the next phase of evidence exchange.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida filed the suit against the school board last December on behalf of a group of students led by 12-year-old Hannah Faughnan, a seventh-grader from Leesburg, Fla., after they were denied their application to form a gay-straight alliance.

It was the second lawsuit seeking to form the gay-straight alliance club at the school.

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Earlier in 2013, the ACLU sued the district on behalf of Bayli Silberstein, then a 14-year-old 8th-grader at Carver whose effort to establish the club had been blocked by school administrators for nearly a year. A short time later, the school board agreed to a settlement allowing the club to form and meet for the remainder of the school year.

In August 2013, the board passed new rules for school clubs and required all existing clubs to reapply in order to meet.

The GSA submitted the club application in October. On Dec. 5, the school board’s attorney told the ACLU that the Superintendent had denied the club application under the new club policy and would not permit it to operate as a school club, claiming that the club was not an extension of the school curriculum.

The ACLU claims numerous other non-curricular clubs have been approved across the district.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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