The Orlando Sentinel reports that the Lake County School Board (LCSB) is considering adopting new rules that would restrict extracurricular student clubs in secondary schools, as it is currently faced with a middle school student’s request, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), to form a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) club. During a recent school board workshop, most members said they want to limit extracurricular student groups in secondary schools.
LCSB’s discussion was prompted by Carver Middle School (CMS) student Bayli Silberstein’s repeated attempts to form a GSA club at the school. After a request during the 2011-12 school year was denied, Silberstein reapplied to form the group in October 2012. CMS Principal Mollie Cunningham has yet to render a decision.
The ACLU, citing the federal Equal Access Act, which applies to secondary schools, says school districts cannot pick and choose which clubs to allow based on what they think students should or should not discuss. If a school allows any student group to meet that does not have a mission directly related to school academics, then it cannot deny other student groups the same access, according to the ACLU.
School Board members Bill Mathias, Debbie Stivender, and Chairwoman Kyleen Fischer spoke in favor of a rule that would ban extracurricular clubs in secondary schools. Board members Tod Howard and Rosanne Brandeburg favored banning extracurricular clubs only in middle schools.
Fischer said the district should focus on education and that “social engineering” is not the job of the School Board. “It is not our job to socially mentor students, but to educate them,” she said.
Howard said he was worried about the clubs that would be lost under stricter rules. “I am very concerned that one club would push out the remainder of the clubs that are doing good things,” he said.
Source: Orlando Sentinel, 2/5/13, By Erica Rodriguez
[Editor's Note: In August 2012, Legal Clips summarized an Associated Press article in The Miami Herald, which reported that Marion County school officials had entered into a consent decree that would allow the formation of a GSA club designed to promote understanding among gay and straight students at Vanguard High School. U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Morales Howard signed the decree ordering school officials to permit the club to meet at the school. The decree settled a lawsuit filed by the Florida Chapter of the ACLU on behalf of the GSA after the school’s principal, Rick Lankford, and Superintendent Jim Yancey prohibited the formation of the GSA club.]