Future of Gay-Straight Alliances at Florida’s Lake County Still Unclear

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The board voted unanimously at their regular May 14 meeting to allow students in Lake County High Schools to form clubs freely without limitation or parental permission. They also voted unanimously to limit elementary school clubs to academics.

The middle school level, however, continues to be at issue. The clubs need to meet certain parameters, but it is unclear what those parameters are, precisely, and the Superintendent apparently would review whether the GSA could comply.

“I am not willing to spend taxpayer dollars to continue to fight this,” said school board member Rosanne Brandeburg, the only vote against limiting middle school clubs. “It’s cost us thousands of dollars and we need to allow equal access.”

Brandeburg also speculated that many existing clubs besides the GSA, such as service clubs and athletic clubs, would not meet the proposed standards for middle school clubs.

“They are trying to handpick the clubs they want,” said Erica Silberstien, 37, mother of Bayli Silberstein, a bisexual Carver Middle School 8th-grader who has been fighting for a GSA at her school since November 2012. “They are leaving themselves to more legal action.”

The ACLU of Florida filed a lawsuit on May 1, claiming that the School Board, District Superintendent  and Principal of Carver Middle School violated Silberstein’s rights under the federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On May 2, the School Board relented, and according to the ACLU, the parties in the case have entered into a consent decree allowing Silberstein to form the club for the remainder of the school year. That decree says the club will be officially recognized and can meet on the same terms as any other club.

As for the new standards being discussed by the school board, the May 14 meeting was just a first vote. The Board now must advertise its proposed policies for 28 days before meeting to vote again in June.

From our media partner WatermarkSusan Clary

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