Thursday, December 19, 2013

For The Second Time This Year ACLU Files Suit Against Lake County Florida School Board Claiming Board Violating Student's Rights By Barring Formation Of Gay-Straight Alliance

Incredibly, in Florida, the Lake County School Board for the second time this year is facing a federal lawsuit accusing it of violating students' freedom of speech and federal rights by not allowing a middle-schooler to start a gay-straight club at her school. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the American Civil Liberties Union Thursday filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a 12-year-old girl at Carver Middle School in Leesburg who applied this semester to start a Gay-Straight Alliance club but was denied by school district officials. The ACLU says seventh-grader Hannah Faughnan filed an application to start the club in October but was denied by the district's administration chief, according to the federal complaint. According to the ACLU, the club would fight against bullying, discrimination and harassment of students including those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. District administration chief Aurelia Cole, however, left a handwritten note on Hannah's application saying that the club "is not an extension of the school curriculum, per policy. Not approved." The district's newly created school-club rules define middle-school clubs as "an extension of the school curriculum." The rules limit middle-school clubs to those that "promote critical thinking, business skills, athletic skills, and performing/visual arts." The ACLU says other middle-school clubs have been approved throughout the district including an honor society, cheerleading squad and chess club. The district is denying the gay-straight club because of viewpoints that will be expressed at meetings and the purpose of the group, according to the ACLU. "It's frustrating that we haven't been able to do anything yet," Hannah said in a statement. "Especially because other clubs have already been meeting but we have not been allowed to meet." The district drew national attention earlier this year after blocking a 14-year-old Bayli Silberstein, who was then an eighth grader at the school, from starting the same club. School leaders in February began reworking rules for all school clubs and never acted on the girl's request to start the club. After the ACLU sued on behalf of the girl, the club was allowed to meet, but only until the end of the 2012-13 school year. School leaders approved new club rules that allow gay-straight clubs in high school but left it unclear whether the group could form in middle schools. A school-district spokesperson would not immediately comment on the case. But School Board member Bill Mathias said he supports the decision to deny the application. Though he didn't know details of the Carver Middle request, he said he believes only curriculum-based clubs should be allowed in middle school. Mathias estimated the district spent thousands of dollars defending itself against the last lawsuit and believes the district already has "comprehensive" anti-bullying programs.

No comments: