Category Archives: Gay-Straight Alliances & Other Student Organizations

Lake County on Map in Blue

A federal appellate court delivered a big win to Florida students in a long-running legal dispute over a middle school gay-straight alliance.

The court’s unanimous decision, authored by a famously conservative judge, holds that a federal law known as the Equal Access Act applies to (and therefore protects the rights of) students attending Carver Middle School in Lake County. The student plaintiffs had relied on the Act’s non-discrimination protections in a lawsuit over the Lake County School Board’s refusal to allow the middle-school GSA. The school board responded to the suit by arguing, among other things, that the Equal Access Act only applies to high schools and therefore provides no protection to the district’s middle school students; today’s decision rejects that position.
Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.

Florida drawn in chalk on green school chalkboard
Bill Mathias Official Photo

School Board Member Bill Mathias finds it “odd” that I write about Lake County, since he is “sure there is injustice in [my] part of the world.

The long-running dispute over the right of students to form a gay-straight alliance (GSA) at Carver Middle School in Lake County, Florida, is headed to trial in federal court this week before a Nixon-appointed judge, the Honorable William Terrell Hodges. For some background on the saga, check out the short local news video and the list of earlier Youth Allies posts (below).

It’s certainly frustrating that the school board, after all this time, is still fighting this club. (Some readers may recall that one Lake County School Board member told me in a ridiculous email almost two years ago that the board had “not blocked the GSA.” That statement, evidently, was false. Around the same time, another school board member inappropriately questioned a middle school student’s sexual orientation in an email to blogger Katy Bourne.)

Nevertheless, I am inspired by the tenacity and courage of the students, their families, their attorneys, and their many other allies. I wish them much luck (though they shouldn’t need it) as they continue their work to overcome the misunderstandings, misinformation, unfounded fears, hostility, and bias that have run rampant in Lake County over this issue. Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.

Lake County on Map in Blue

A federal judge in Florida last week denied the Lake County School District’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a group of middle school students, who are seeking to form a gay-straight alliance with the same rights and privileges as other extra-curricular groups on campus. The proposed GSA, which existed briefly last year only to be banned again, would aim to reduce bullying and to provide a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and allied students.

As I’ve explained in a series of posts (listed below), the school district has devoted substantial time, energy and resources over the last year to prevent the GSA from forming, with at least two board members making some strange, inappropriate and/or inaccurate comments to me and others over email about the controversy. In its most recent court filings, moreover, the school board likened the GSA’s anti-bullying efforts to “sexual advocacy.” The board’s offensive arguments and misguided opposition to the GSA inflict harm on an already marginalized and vulnerable group of students entrusted to the district’s care.

While it’s certainly good news that a federal judge has refused to dismiss the case, the judge also declined the ACLU’s request for a preliminary injunction, which is troublesome. Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.

Confused Man with Question Marks Above Head

The gay-straight alliance saga continues in Florida’s Lake County.

In court papers filed in connection with the second lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLU) against the Lake County School Board, the board continues its deeply hurtful battle to block the formation of a gay-straight alliance (GSA) as an officially recognized student club at a local middle school. The ACLU is correctly arguing that the school board is violating federal law, including the Equal Access Act and the Constitution.

The school district’s latest filings include several misleading, odd, offensive and just plain sloppy arguments, including an outlandish contention that the GSA, if allowed to form, would engage in “sexual” “advocacy.” Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post.