Taveres – The American Civil Liberties Union is still fighting for a Gay-Straight Alliance at Carver Middle School.
The ACLU filed a motion asking for summary judgment in a lawsuit filed against the Lake County School District, as district officials have so far refused to allow Carver students to form a GSA.
The lawsuit was filed in December of 2013, on behalf of Hannah Faughnan, 12, a former seventh-grader who is attempting to form a GSA at her school. Faughnan is representing a group of students who want to create the GSA. There was a hearing before Judge William Terrell Hodges at the United States District Court Middle District of Florida, Ocala Division Feb. 10, but no action since.
This is the second lawsuit filed over a GSA at Carver Middle School in the past year. The last time the ACLU sued Lake County Schools, they were representing openly bisexual Bayli Silberstein, who at the time was a 14-year-old 8th grader at Carver Middle School. After months of legal wrangling and school board meeting debates, a judge granted Silberstein permission to form the club for the remainder of her 8th grade year, which ended in the summer of 2013.
That settlement has expired, Bayli has moved onto high school and now, the GSA no longer meets at Carver Middle School. Before the club became inactive, Faughan and her friends tried to keep it going but ran into administrative roadblocks similar to the ones Silberstein faced.
The motion filed Aug. 22 asks Federal District Judge William Terrell Hodges to issue an order stating that the school board’s efforts violated the federal Equal Access Act—a law which says that all student clubs must be given equal treatment by school administrators—and allowing the club to meet and be treated the same as any other student club on campus, according to the ACLU.
“The new school year has just begun. The School Board through its Superintendent has violated the Equal Access Act in disallowing the Carver GSA to form and operate as a student group,” the motion reads. “Plaintiffs request that the Court ensure that they are given equal access to all of the benefits afforded to any other noncurriculum related student group as the school year resumes.”
The Federal Access Act, passed in 1984, requires secondary schools to provide equal access to extracurricular clubs. Religious groups initially lobbied for the law, to ensure students have the right to conduct Bible Study programs after school.