School district’s ban on LGBT groups struck down by federal court

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A Florida school district that banned students from forming a Gay-Straight Alliance has been smacked down by a federal court.

In 2011, Lake County School Board in Florida opted to block students at Carver Middle School in Leesburg from forming a gay-straight-alliance club.

After the school declined to allow the club, the American Civil Liberties Union launched a legal challenge, which has slowly worked its way through the court system.

This week, the case appeared to finally reach resolution, as the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that the school must treat all extracurricular clubs the same, under the Equal Access Act.

The case hinged on the interpretation of the phrase “secondary school” in the EAA. The court affirmed that the law applies to middle schools as well as high schools, allowing proceedings to address the students’ request to establish the club on campus.

Daniel Tilley, Staff Attorney for LGBT Rights for the ACLU of Florida, said: “We are of course pleased that the court agreed with our legal position on all of the issues in the appeal.

“But the greater victory is for the middle school students across Florida who are protected by the Equal Access Act and must be allowed to create a gay-straight alliance if their school allows student clubs.”

The ACLU had argued: “LGBT students are far more likely than their fellow students to face harassment and discrimination in schools. LGBT students in schools with GSAs are significantly less likely to experience victimization related to their sexual orientation and gender expression, and are less likely to feel unsafe, than students without access a GSA.”

The school board has not issued a comment on the ruling.