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.