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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 9, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 50
11th Circuit Court OKs Florida GSAs
Section One
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11th Circuit Court OKs Florida GSAs

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on December 6 that Florida middle school students may form a gay-straight alliance (GSA) to combat bullying.

The appeals court decision reversed the finding of a lower court that the Lake County, Florida, School Board could prevent students from forming GSAs.

The case dates back to 2011, when a group of students at Carver Middle School requested permission to form a GSA and were denied by school authorities. In 2013 the ACLU filed suit on their behalf, arguing that the federal Equal Access Act required the school district to treat all extracurricular clubs the same.

The school district claimed that under Florida state law, only high schools and not middle schools fell under the federal guidelines.

US District Judge William Terrell Hodges agreed with the school district in an August 2015 ruling, but he was reversed by the 11th Circuit.

'Carver Middle School provides courses through which students can obtain high school credit. The Equal Access Act applies to Carver Middle School,' the appeals court wrote.

'Today's ruling from the appeals court clarifies that the Equal Access Act does apply to Florida's public middle schools, and it orders the lower court to conduct further proceedings to address the students' request to establish the club on campus and other requested relief,' the ACLU said in a statement.

'We're very happy that middle school students across Florida will now be able to form GSAs without interference from school administrators,' said Daniel Tilley, staff attorney for LGBT rights for the ACLU of Florida.

Tilley said a 'substantial' number of students at Carver Middle School are prepared to petition to create another GSA.

School district spokesperson Sherri Owens told the Orlando Sentinel that she hadn't yet seen the ruling. School board attorney Steve Johnson didn't return a call from the newspaper seeking comment.

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