Federal court allows students to form gay-straight clubs after Florida school board blocked them

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PHOTO BY JOEY ROULETTE
  • Photo by Joey Roulette
A federal appeals court panel overturned a ruling Tuesday that prevented a group of Florida students from forming a gay-straight alliance club at their Lake County middle school.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed a lawsuit in 2013 on behalf of students at Carver Middle School in Leesburg after the Lake County School Board refused to allow the club. Gay-straight alliance clubs are organizations made up of LGBTQ students and allies who advocate for an end to bullying and harassment of queer students.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta found that federal law guarantees all student groups, in middle school and high school, should have equal access to school resources if the school allows extra-curricular clubs. Previously, a federal district court dismissed the students' case because it ruled the federal law did not apply to middle schoolers.

"We are of course pleased that the court agreed with our legal position on all of the issues in the appeal," says Daniel Tilley, an attorney for the ACLU of Florida, in a statement. "But the greater victory is for the middle school students across Florida who are protected by the Equal Access Act and must be allowed to create a gay-straight alliance if their school allows extracurricular clubs."

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