Florida's Lake School Board Receives 25,000 Signatures in Support of GSA

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The girl who is being blocked from forming a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and the ACLU are presenting 25,000 signatures in support of the club to the Lake County School district today.

8th grader Bayli Silberstein, employees of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and other LGBT supporters will speak out against the board’s proposal to ban all non-curricular student clubs in an attempt to prevent Bayli from forming a GSA at Carver Middle School. They'll also deliver a petition with more than 25,000 signatures urging the school to allow the GSA and other clubs.

“I’m excited by all the support I’ve gotten,” said Silberstein in a media release. “We need to do something about the bullying at Carver. I really hope the school board will listen to all these people saying that banning student groups is not fair, and that we should be allowed to form a Gay-Straight Alliance.”

On Jan. 23, the ACLU sent a letter to Lake County School Board attorney Stephen Johnson, demanding the district follow through on a request by Silberstein to “confront bullying, educate the school community, and promote acceptance and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students” via the formation of a GSA.

According to the letter. Silberstein has been asking school officials whether her request has been denied and if so, would they provide reasons in writing. The request was submitted in early November, and Silberstein and her friend have had a conversation with Principal Mollie Cunningham, “who acknowledged the potential utility of the club but indicated that she needed to consult with the school board.”

Rather than denying the request, the letter states that school officials have been simply ignoring Silberstein.

“We hope the public presence at the meeting on Monday will demonstrate to members of the Lake County School Board that the public supports Bayli’s right to form a Gay-Straight Alliance,” said Joyce Hamilton Henry, Mid-Florida Regional Director for the ACLU of Florida, in a media release. “People are upset and want the school board to know that sacrificing the needs of all students isn’t fair, and that Bayli and her friends should be allowed to form their club to make Carver a safer school.”

The board's discussion today is ahead of a vote a week from today.

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