School Board Ponders Student Group Ban That Would Block Gay-Straight Alliance

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. (CBS Tampa) –¬†School officials in Lake County are considering banning extra-curricular activities for students, an order that would effectively keep a proposed gay-straight alliance from forming in one of its schools.

Several school board members, including chairwoman Kyleen Fischer and members Bill Mathias and Debbie Strivender, voiced their support of the ban on clubs and groups at secondary schools while meeting and discussing the matter at a workshop on Monday, the Orlando Sentinel is reporting.

Two other board members, Tod Howard and Rosanne Brandeburg, reportedly favored a ban that would be specific to middle schools.

In either instance, the proposed Gay-Straight Alliance that 14-year-old Carver Middle School student Bayli Silberstein wanted to form at her school would be prohibited, the paper learned.

The American Civil Liberties Union became involved in the matter when Bayli’s first attempted to form the club was denied last school year. She is reportedly awaiting a final decision on her second application from this school year, which will be handed down by Principal Mollie Cunningham, who runs the Leesburg school.

The ACLU said that the club was integral in combating harassment of LGBT students.

“Creating an atmosphere in which bullying and violence are not tolerated and everyone is valued and respected will help make all students better citizens and better equipped for participation in the workforce that is comprised of people from all walks of life,” a letter sent by the ACLU and obtained by CFNEWS-13 stated.

The organization added, “By protecting students’ right to form a [gay-straight alliance], you are not only obeying the law and avoiding potential legal liability, you are promoting school safety and helping address the serious problem of anti-LGBT bullying.”

Bayli also hoped to create a friendly environment while also combating bullying and harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.

“The bullying at our school has gotten out of hand, and somebody needs to do something about it,” Bayli was quoted as saying in a press release from the ACLU also obtained by the station.

If the school board votes in favor of the proposed extra-curricular ban, however, the club may not even have a chance to form.

While discussing the matter Monday, Fischer was quoted as saying that “social engineering” should take a back seat to education, as far as district-wide focus is concerned.

She added, according to the Sentinel, “It is not our job to socially mentor students, but to educate them.”

Not everyone was entirely in favor of all elements of the ban – board member Howard reportedly expressed concern regarding how the rule would affect what he referred to as “the remainder of the clubs that are doing good things.”

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