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Judge’s ruling reinforces Fla. teen’s right to organize gay-straight alliance

Judge’s ruling reinforces Fla. teen’s right to organize gay-straight alliance

OCALA, Fla. — A federal judge on Thursday reinforced the right of a Florida teen to organize a gays-straight alliance at her middle school.

U.S. District Judge Anne Conway issued a final order in the case of Bayli Silberstein, 14, of Leesburg, Fla., who brought a lawsuit against the school board of Lake County, Fla., for repeatedly delaying action on the her request to form the club.

Orlando Sentinel
Bayli Silberstein

The final order reinforces a consent decree entered by the parties in the case on the day after the lawsuit was filed.

The ACLU contended in its lawsuit that the school board violated Bayli’s 1st and 14th Amendment rights, as well as a federal law prohibiting schools from discriminating against student clubs by ignoring her application — effectively denying it.

One day after the lawsuit was filed, Lake County Schools Superintendent Susan Moxley said she would allow Bayli’s club to meet until the end of the school year (next week).

Thursday’s order upholds that agreement and calls for the district to pay Bayli $1 for nominal damages and pay a $14,000 bill for legal fees.

“I am really happy that we were finally able to meet and that this is finally over,” stated Bayli, an 8th grader at the school.

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“My friends and I didn’t want to have the school year end without being able to do something to make school safer. I’m really grateful for all the support I’ve gotten and hope this helps other kids see that what we’re doing is something worth fighting for,” she said.

“We are very happy for Bayli and her family that this lawsuit has come to a close,” stated Daniel Tilley, staff attorney for the ACLU of Florida. “Although it should have happened more than a year ago, we are pleased that the School District has acknowledged its obligation under clearly established federal law to allow the GSA to meet.”

Bayli, meanwhile, said she plans on starting a gay-straight club at Leesburg High School, where she starts as a freshman next school year. She is not expecting much opposition.

A copy of the final order entered is available here.

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