Bayli Silberstein: Florida Teen Continues to Push for GSA

For more than a year, Florida 8th-grade student Bayli Silberstein, and other students who have endured anti-gay bullying and harassment, have been trying to establish a gay-straight alliance (GSA) at Carver Middle School, only to be met with opposition from school officials. Now, because the federal Equal Access Act prevents schools from discriminating among clubs based on what they think students should or should not discuss, the school board is considering getting rid of all student clubs in elementary and middle schools.

"A lot of kids are already mad at me, thinking I'm the reason their clubs are getting canceled. But I waited to stand up for what I believe, and I wasn't going to take no for an answer," Bayli told WFTV.com after the school board's public hearing on the issue, last week. 

Local and national organizations including Equality Florida, ACLU of Florida, GLSEN and GLAAD have stepped in to help to educate the public and school board about the need for student groups and to help Bayli share her story with the media. 

“The Lake County School Board continues to enable bullies over the safety of their students,” Equality Florida’s Michael Farmer said in a statement. “This is just the latest example of the need for the Lake County School Board to adopt an anti-bullying policy and a nondiscrimination policy that includes LGBT students and staff.”

“People are upset and want the school board to know that sacrificing the needs of all students isn’t fair," wrote Joyce Hamilton Henry, Mid-Florida Regional Director for the ACLU, "and that Bayli and her friends should be allowed to form their club to make Carver a safer school.”

The earliest the Lake County school district can vote to decide whether to get rid of all clubs in middle and elementary schools is March 11.

 

As pressure mounted on the Lake County School Board to make a decision about approving the formation of a GSA, school board members began the process to create a policy that would ban all non-curricular clubs rather than to allow Bayli and her friends to form a GSA. In a remarkable denial of responsibility for their discriminatory decision, board member Tod Howard stated "I am very concerned that one club would push out the remainder of the clubs that are doing good things.”
 
GSAs can provide a safe and affirming space for LGBT students and contribute to creating a more welcoming school environment.
 
•     LGBT students in schools with a GSA heard fewer homophobic remarks than students in schools without GSAs.
•     LGBT students in schools with a GSA were more likely to report school personnel intervened when hearing homophobic remarks.
•     LGBT students in schools with a GSA were less likely to experience victimization related to their sexual orientation and gender expression.
•     LGBT students in schools with a GSA were less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation and had a greater sense of connectedness to their school community than students without a GSA.

GLAAD will continue to monitor this story.

 

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