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Gay Students Have No Right To Meet School Board Says

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Gay Students Have No Right To Meet School Board Says

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: December 14, 2006 9:00 pm ET

(Okeechobee, Florida) A Florida school district has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by a high school student who was prevented from organizing a Gay-Straight Alliance at her school.

A lawyer for the Okeechobee County School Board argue that gay students are not protected by the federal Equal Access Act and that principal Toni Wiersma was following Florida state law in rejecting the club.

Students attempted to organize the club after Yasmin Gonzalez and her girlfriend were told they could not attend the school prom as a couple. The rejection was one of several incidents targeting LGBT students at Okeechobee High School.

When Wiersma told Gonzalez and fellow students Amber Sewell and Erica Rodriguez they could not form the club on school property they went to the American Civil Liberties Union which filed suit.

“Straight kids cannot turn their backs on the plague of violence and discrimination against gay and lesbian students,” said Sewell, who is straight and one of the GSA founders. “When students aren’t safe, we can’t learn. Only when we stand together will we find a solution.”

The GSA, which currently meets at a local restaurant, has elected officers and adopted a constitution. The GSA now has approximately 50 members.

The ACLU suit argues that under the federal Equal Access Act schools that allow any extracurricular activities to meet on campus are required to allow all extracurricular student groups to do so and to treat every club equally.

“Florida’s gay and lesbian students deserve schools that are places of learning, not training camps for intolerance, intimidation and violence," said Robert Rosenwald, Director of the ACLU of Florida’s LGBT Advocacy Project.

The school allows a number of extracurricular clubs – including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Key Club, and the Rodeo team – to meet regularly on school grounds.

But school district attorney David Gibbs says that the Equal Access Act can't be used in the case of a GSA and furthermore Florida law requires schools to teach abstinence, "while teaching the benefits of monogamous heterosexual marriage."

A ruling on the motion to dismiss the case is expected early in 2007.

©365Gay.com 2006

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