Last night, the Lake County School Board voted 3-2 against a proposed policy that would have banned all non-academic clubs, instead opting for a rule that would require students to obtain parental permission for club membership.
Over 55,000 people had signed a petition urging the school board not to go forward with the proposed ban on all clubs, which the school board had considered passing in response to the effort of Leesburg 8th-grader Bayli Silberstein to establish a gay-straight alliance (GSA) club at Carver Middle School.
The ACLU also rented a plane that flew a banner reading “Stand with Bayli, not bullies” outside the school board meeting.
The following statement may be attributed to Daniel Tilley, ACLU of Florida LGBT Policy Strategist:
“We are glad that a majority of the school board members listened to the voices of the parents and students of Lake County and realized that banning all non-academic clubs to stop students from having a gay-straight alliance was the wrong way to respond to Bayli and her friends’ effort to fight bullying at their school.
“We’re extremely grateful for everyone who turned out to speak, as well as the tens of thousands across the country who signed Bayli’s petition. Because of the people who stood with Bayli, she’ll be able to keep fighting against bullying.
“GSAs exist in thousands of schools and in every state in the country; these groups combat the epidemic of bullying and harassment of students who are or are perceived to be LGBT. We hope that today’s decision means that the GSA will be able to form, meet, and be treated the same as any other club as students work to eradicate bullying from the halls of Carver Middle School.
“However, we have seen in other places that parental-consent requirements like those the school board passed can create administrative burdens, prevent access to support groups for minority students, and discourage participation in extracurricular activities. We will continue to stand with Bayli and ensure that she and her friends are able to establish their GSA, and we will continue to work to ensure that club policies aren’t used to favor some students’ clubs and discriminate against others.”
The following statement may be attributed to Bayli Silberstein, age 14 of Leesburg, FL:
“I’m just really thankful for everyone who stood up for me, the GSA, and the work we’re doing. We’re going to work hard now to get the club started before the end of the school year so we can start to fix the bullying problem right away.”
More information about the ACLU’s work to support the effort to start a GSA at Carver Middle School is available here: http://aclufl.org/2013/02/15/aclu-petitions-lake-county-school-board-to-stop-gay-straight-alliance-ban/