Florida school board faces legal challenge over ban on gay-straight alliance group
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed a lawsuit yesterday after a school board denied against student requests to form a Gay-Straight Alliance at Yulee High School last year.
The School Board of Nassau County, Florida said in a letter denying access to the GSA that groups with names referencing a specific sexual orientation would not be recognised.
Even if the group changed its name to one not communicating a gay-specific mission, approval was uncertain.
“We just want the club so that straight and gay kids can get together to talk about harassment and discrimination against gay kids in an open environment,” said Hannah Page, ACLU plaintiff and student at Yulee High School.
“The school is discriminating against us and that’s exactly the kind of thing we want to talk about and prevent.
“Other clubs and groups are allowed to meet on campus and we have that right too.”
Bullying of LGBT students in Nassau County Schools is a serious problem.
Plaintiffs Hannah Page and Jacob Brock, who are gay, report that students have threatened to beat them up based on their sexual orientation, and both are routinely called derogatory names at school.
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GSAs are student organisations made up of straight and gay students who wish to advocate for an end to bullying, harassment, and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.
There are more than 4,000 GSAs in the United States, according to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
“We are taking a stand today because gay students are entitled to a safe and secure education. Gay and lesbian students deserve schools that heed the rule of law,” said Robert Rosenwald, Director of the ACLU of Florida’s LGBT Advocacy Project.
“These students are trying to bring a message of equality and openness, and the lesson they are being taught is that Yulee High School administrators believe discrimination against LGBT students is an acceptable policy.
“Discrimination and harassment by students will never end as long as schools discriminate themselves.”
The ACLU filed the suit alleging violations of the First Amendment and the Federal Equal Access Act, and seeks a preliminary injunction to force school officials to allow the GSA to meet at Yulee High School while the litigation makes its way to trial.