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Thursday, Dec 18, 2014
Crime & Courts

ACLU sues Lake school board over gay-straight club


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OCALA -

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Lake County school board Wednesday, claiming its delay in allowing the formation of a gay-straight alliance club at a Leesburg middle school is a violation of free speech and equal access.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit 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 in 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.

School board spokesman Chris Patton didn't immediately return a phone call.

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.

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