The ACLU of Florida has filed a lawsuit against another Florida School Board for denying a Gay-Straight Alliance to form. Administrators from the School Board of Nassau County, Florida have unlawfully denied students' requests for permission to form a GSA this school year at Yulee High School and during the 2007-08 school year at Yulee Middle School, stating:
that groups with names referencing a specific sexual orientation would not be recognized and that even if the group changed its name to one not communicating a gay-specific mission, approval was uncertain.
According to the ACLU, bullying of LGBT students in Nassau County Schools is a serious problem. Plaintiffs Hannah Page and Jacob Brock, who are gay and students at Yulee High School, report that students have threatened to beat them up based on their sexual orientation, and both are routinely called derogatory names at school.
Hannah Page refuses to accept the discrimination:
We just want the club so that straight and gay kids can get together to talk about harassment and discrimination against gay kids in an open environment. The school is discriminating against us and that's exactly the kind of thing we want to talk about and prevent. Other clubs and groups are allowed to meet on campus and we have that right too.
The ACLU filed the suit alleging violations of the First Amendment and the Federal Equal Access Act, and seeks a preliminary injunction to force school officials to allow the GSA to meet at Yulee High School while the litigation makes its way to trial. Robert Rosenwald, Director of the ACLU of Florida's LGBT Advocacy Project, had this to say of the case:
We are taking a stand today because gay students are entitled to a safe and secure education. Gay and lesbian students deserve schools that heed the rule of law. These students are trying to bring a message of equality and openness, and the lesson they are being taught is that Yulee High School administrators believe discrimination against LGBT students is an acceptable policy. Discrimination and harassment by students will never end as long as schools discriminate themselves.
Jacob Brock, the other ACLU plaintiff, hopes the lawsuit brings to light what LGBT students go through:
I hope that being part of this important lawsuit will open up people's eyes so that they can see that there is still a lot of discrimination and we need to sit down and talk about it. The school is preventing us from talking about anti-gay bias, harassment, and violence and working together to promote tolerance, understanding and acceptance of one another, regardless of sexual orientation. That's just unfair.
Readers may remember that the ACLU recently fought and won a similar case at Okeechobee High School in Florida, where the judge ruled that schools must provide for the well-being of gay students and cannot discriminate against GSAs. They also fought and won the highly publicized Florida case at Ponce de Leon High School where principal David Davis said that students couldn't write "gay pride" on their arms and notebooks and wear rainbows and triangles in support of LGBT rights because it may "make students unable to study because they'd be picturing gay sex acts in their mind," a stance the judge called a "relentless crusade" against homosexuality at the school.
Good for these students (and for the amazing ACLU of Florida) for standing up to this kind of ridiculous bigotry and discrimination. The school administration's reaction shows exactly why this GSA is necessary. Allowing safe spaces for students should never be an issue.