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Federal judge in Central Florida allows gay-straight alliance lawsuit to move forward

ASSOCIATED PRESS

TAVERES, Fla. -- Students fighting to have a gay-straight alliance club at their middle school in central Florida have won a partial victory for the time being.

carverA federal judge on Thursday denied an attempt to throw out the students' lawsuit against the School Board of Lake County, just northwest of Orlando.

But the judge also refused to issue a preliminary injunction that would have allowed the club to meet immediately at Carver Middle School.

The students' lawsuit instead will be allowed to move forward to the next phase of evidence exchange.

The students sued the school board last December. It was the second lawsuit seeking to form the gay-straight alliance club at the school.

Here’s the news release from the ACLU of Florida:

OCALA, FL - In an order issued today, Federal District Judge William Terrell Hodges denied the Lake County School District’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by several students at Carver Middle School, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, whose attempts to create a gay-straight alliance (GSA) at their school have been routinely thwarted by school administrators. The lawsuit, which was filed in December of 2013, is the second lawsuit in less than year brought by students at Carver Middle School challenging the School Board’s ongoing efforts to block the students’ constitutionally-protected right to establish a GSA to combat bullying at their school. The judge’s order also dismissed a motion for preliminary injunction which would have allowed the club to meet immediately, but the case will continue on to the next phase, where the parties exchange evidence.

In August, the school board passed a new club policy that included new requirements for middle-school student clubs and required all existing clubs, including the Carver GSA, which had been allowed to meet as the result of a settlement in the previous lawsuit, to reapply in order to meet. The students in the GSA submitted the club application explaining the goals of the club – including “to create and execute strategies to confront and work to end bullying, discrimination, and harassment against all students” – in October. On December 5th, after requests for an update on the status of the GSA application, the school board’s attorney stated that the Superintendent had denied the club application under the new club policy and would not permit it to operate as a school club, claiming that the club was not an extension of the school curriculum.  However, numerous non-curricular clubs have been approved across the district. It was after this that the lawsuit was filed.

In response to the judge’s order issued today, ACLU of Florida LGBT rights staff attorney Daniel Tilley said the following:

“The school board’s ongoing effort to block these students from creating this club, including most recently their motion to dismiss this legal challenge, is the perfect example of why the club is so badly needed. All across the country, LGBT students are subject to serious bullying and harassment, and the students who make up the GSA at Carver are working to be a part of the solution by doing something that multiple studies have proven to work. Instead of supporting them, the school board is ignoring the problem, and in doing so, participating in it. Judge Hodges was right to throw out their motion to dismiss, and though we are disappointed that he also denied our motion for preliminary injunction, we look forward to continuing to make the case for why these brave kids should be allowed to stand up to the bullies.”

GSAs are student organizations made up of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and their straight allies that advocate for an end to bullying, harassment, and discrimination against all students.  GSAs exist in thousands of schools across the country. LGBT students in schools with GSAs are significantly less likely to experience victimization related to their sexual orientation and gender expression, and less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation than students without a GSA.

Carver GSA v. Lake County School Board

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