There is a quiet battle going on in Orlando. The Lake County school board is one side and students, along with the ACLU are on the other. The matter at hand is the formation of an extra-curricular group for LGBT students at a middle school. The school board seems to think that creating new rules about student clubs will solve the problem. But that’s not the way it’s playing out, thank goodness.
Because of another school in the district becoming the center of a different fight over the same type of group, the school board decided it would try to nip this in the bud. Last year a student at Carver Middle School in Leesburg, petitioned the school to create an Gay-Straight Alliance Club. She was denied. Then the ACLU got involved. When 14-year-old Bayli Silberstein re-applied this past October, the application wasn’t denied off-hand. Though she is still awaiting a decision from principal Mollie Cunningham. That’s Carver Middle School in Leesburg, Florida. You know what to do.
The ACLU is fighting these rules, citing the federal Equal Access Act, which was passed in 1984. The Act states that if a school receiving federal money allows at least one non-curriculum club which meets outside of class time, then it must allow additional clubs to be formed. They must receive equal access to school facilities and publications. The school cannot pick and choose which kind of clubs it wants to allow: it’s all or nothing. In Florida, this applies to middle and high schools.
Four board members favor a rule that would ban extra-curricular clubs in secondary and middle schools. The reasons they gave reflect typical right-wing thinking when it comes to people they don’t care to understand and actively dislike. One said that an LGBT club would be “social engineering.” And that’s not the school’s job. I’m sorry….? Do you remember middle and high school? Did we not all learn about “social engineering” there? I know I did. Cliques, clubs, teams… however they formed, they were nothing but social engineering.
But this one really irks me:
“I am very concerned that one club would push out the remainder of the clubs that are doing good things.” (SOURCE)
The implication here – that an LGBT club would not be “doing good things” is arrogant and ignorant. The very first thing such a club would do is give those students a haven, a place to go where they know they will not be bullied. Where they can share their stories and concerns. Where they can grow and learn how to be their best.
The ACLU has sent a strongly worded letter (which, face it, is all they can do for the moment) demanding that Bayli be allowed to have her LGBT group at Carver School. Federal courts in Florida have held that it is unconstitutional for schools to deny Gay-Straight Alliance clubs. One judge in Marion County had to order the school district there to allow a group to meet at a high school. That school board had just denied the application out-of-hand.
With the incidence of gay students being bullied and even driven to suicide, it is inexcusable that schools would deny them a refuge. Schools are not just places of academia. Many kinds of learning takes place there, good and bad. It is the school’s responsibility to try to make as much of it as they can the good kind.
T. Steelman is a life-long Liberal. She has been writing online about politics since 2007. She lives in Western Washington with her husband, daughter, 2 cats and a small herd of alpacas. How can anybody be enlightened? Truth is, after all, so poorly lit…