The Lake County School Board and Carver Middle School are deep in the middle LGBT controversy all because of a bisexual middle school student attempted to start a Gay-Straight Alliance club.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, openly bisexual eighth-grader Bayli Silberstein, has been working to get a GSA at Carver Middle School since last year. Silberstein said she is hoping the club will help support LGBT students who feel bullied because of their sexual identity at Carver Middle.
Her cause has gained community support and is now backed by the ACLU. The ACLU points out that the federal Equal Access Act does not allow school districts to pick and choose which clubs to allow based on what they think students should or should not discuss. If a school allows any student group to meet that doesn’t have a mission directly related to school academics, then it cannot deny other students groups the same access. In Florida, the law applies to middle and high school students.
Apparently inspired in part by Silberstein’s activism at Carver and by the stipulations in the Equal Access Act, the Lake County School Board is weighing restrictions that would place limits on on extra-curricular clubs in area middle schools including the of banning all extra-curricular clubs in secondary schools or at least in middle schools.
Chairwomen Fischer said the district should focus on education and that “social engineering” is not the job of the School Board. “It is not our job to socially mentor students, but to educate them,” Fischer said.
But this statement seems to make the school board role in all of this even more confusing. If a member of the board believes that it is not the job of the district to be involved with socially mentoring students then why make any type of ruling the clubs allowed at schools at all? Just site the Federal Law and go back to focusing on the educational issues facing the district. Why ban all clubs just to stop this one club from forming? It won’t stop all the attention to this case, instead it’ll probably cause more of an uproar from other schools as they loose their clubs. Would this ban focus only on the non-education clubs (since the federal law protects clubs that have a mission directly related to school academics). In the middle schools in the Lake County district we find clubs like Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD), The Multi-Cultural Club, a robotics club, etc. which are more social than educational programs thus subject to the potential ban. Also, where do you draw the line at non-educational clubs? Technically sports teams are non-educational clubs and any creative arts club may not what some consider educational. The ban that is being considered by the school board comes across an aggressive defensive strategy meant to force Bayli Silberstein and her supporters to back down or risk being seen as the bad guys that took all clubs away.
Here hoping that the school board members take a step back and carefully evaluate the situation at hand before they make their decision.