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.
GLAAD will continue to monitor this story.