Lake County School Board, gay straight alliance, GSA, Florida, Leesburg, Carver Middle School
Lake County School Board, gay straight alliance, GSA, Florida, Leesburg, Carver Middle School

Federal Court Rules in Favor of Public School Gay-Straight Alliances

In December of 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Lake County School Board for refusing to let Carver Middle School students form a gay-straight alliance (GSA) to address the school’s queerphobic bullying issues. Today, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling upholding the School Board’s decision to forbid the GSA and other “non-academic” clubs from forming.

The appeals court said that the federal Equal Access Act requires all federally-funded secondary schools to treat extracurricular clubs equally. When the lawsuit began, a then 14-year-old bisexual student named Bayli Silberstein had pushed to create the GSA at Carver Middle School; Silberstein is now in high school. Thanks to her efforts, all Alabama, Florida and Georgia students attending a public middle or high school now have the legal right to form a GSA. Well done, lady!

This is a big deal considering that large percentages of LGBT students experience bullying and harassment in their public schools. GSAs provide a space where students can address these issues and affirm their identities amid an uninviting cultural atmosphere.