Victory for Florida Students in Lake County Gay-Straight Alliance Case

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.
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Students, Backed by ACLU, Head to Trial in Lake County (Florida) Gay-Straight Alliance Case

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.

Great News for Grayson! School Backs Down, Will Allow My Little Pony Bag

North Carolina on Green School Chalkboard

Earlier this week, I published a post and video about a brave nine-year-old, Grayson Bruce, who had spoken out publicly against bullying after getting verbally and physically attacked at his North Carolina school. Other kids had picked on him relentlessly because they thought his My Little Pony bag was “girlie.” And to make matters worse, school administrators initially responded by telling Grayson not to wear the bag, saying it was the “trigger for bullying.” (Check out my original post for further thoughts on that.)

Fortunately, the school has changed course (though it took a national outcry) and will allow Grayson to wear his bag. Administrators have published the following statement from Grayson’s mother, Noreen Bruce, on the district’s Facebook page:

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School Takes Action Against Bullied Student with My Little Pony Bag

Nine Year Old Bruce Grayson

Though the school officials’ behavior infuriates me, the young boy at the heart of this news story moves, impresses and inspires me.

A courageous and well-spoken nine-year-old, Grayson Bruce, is standing up publicly to school bullies—and to his school—after facing vicious bullying for his supposed gender nonconformity. Some of the other kids in his North Carolina school district have attacked him verbally and physically because they think his My Little Pony bag is for girls.

School officials have dealt poorly with the situation, to say the least: They reportedly blamed the mistreatment on Grayson and his bag—and told him not to wear it—rather than focusing their punitive action on the bullies. (They called the bag a “trigger for bullying.”)

The bag, it should go without saying, does not harm anyone. Nor does it harm anyone that a young boy happens to like toys or cartoons that have traditionally been marketed toward girls. The “triggers for bullying” here were small-mindedness, immaturity, ignorance and gender stereotyping. Not My Little Pony. By treating kids like Grayson as the problem, schools empower bullies and reinforce narrow and oppressive notions of gender that stifle young people’s creativity and their freedom to be themselves. Click here or on ‘Read More’ to view the full post and to learn how to support Bruce Grayson on Facebook.