City of Lakeland in Central Florida Approves Gay-Straight Alliance

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Lakeland - It’s a victory for two Kathleen High School 11th-grade students, who will be permitted to form a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at their school.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Rory Teal and Brenna Pelland, both 17 years old, had been working since November 2012 to establish the GSA to fight bullying and promote tolerance for LGBT students.

“We are really excited that the GSA is going to be allowed to start creating a safe space where students can be themselves,” Pelland said in a media release. “We want our school to be a place where people are respected for who they are, and the GSA is going to help a lot with that.”

Initially, school officials had been blocking the request but on April 18, the ACLU sent a letter to the superintendent of the Polk County School Board. A week later, in a meeting after school on April 26, Teal and Pelland were informed their principal that the GSA would be allowed to meet, according to the ACLU.

“The bullying situation made focusing on academics really hard for a lot of people," Teal said in a media release. “We’re glad we don’t have to wait until next year for the club to help students feel comfortable at school.”

ACLU of Florida staff attorney Daniel Tilley said they’re glad there will be no further delay in allowing the GSA to do its work.

“We are always pleased when administrators recognize the right of students to establish a GSA rather than create needless controversy by delaying and denying students their rights,” Tilley said in a media release. “The students, parents, faculty, and administrators at Kathleen High School will soon realize what a benefit it is to the school community to have a group of dedicated students like Rory and Brenna working to make their school a safer and more welcoming place.”

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