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ACLU Sues Fla. School Board Over Gay-Straight Club

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File photo of a person holding a rainbow flag. (Photo by PETER KOHALMI/AFP/GettyImages)

File photo of a person holding a rainbow flag. (Photo by PETER KOHALMI/AFP/GettyImages)

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OCALA, Fla. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union sued a Florida school board Wednesday, claiming its delay in allowing the formation of a gay-straight alliance club at a middle school is a violation of free speech and equal access.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit against the School Board of Lake County in federal court in Ocala.

Efforts by eighth-grader Bayli Silbertstein to form a student club for gay students and their straight allies at Carver Middle School have been repeatedly delayed by the school board. The board’s failure to give her a definitive answer on whether the club can be formed is tantamount to a denial and that denial violates the U.S. Constitution, the lawsuit said.

“This non-response amounts to a de facto denial,” the lawsuit said.

Also named in the lawsuit were the Lake County school superintendent and the principal of the middle school.

When Silberstein applied to start the Gay-Straight Alliance at Carver Middle School last November, the school’s principal told her she needed to consult the school board. Last February, the school board held a public workshop on whether clubs without a direct tie to the curriculum could be held at middle and high schools, and in March the board gave tentative approval to the measure, a decision which would have given the green light to the gay-straight club, the lawsuit said.

A vote to give final approval to the measure was tabled at a school board meeting last week.

A spokesman for Lake County Schools said he couldn’t comment on a pending lawsuit. But Chris Patton said the school board wanted to review the policy again after a change was made to state law defining which schools are subject to a federal law prohibiting discrimination of clubs based on what they may discuss. Another workshop is planned for Monday.

“This has been an ongoing process,” Patton said.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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