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More than 100 pack Lake, FL meeting about 'gay-straight' middle school club

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The Orlando Sentinel
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February 19, 2013

More than 100 parents, students, residents and a few pastors showed up at a Lake County School Board meeting Monday afternoon, many wearing red shirts to show support for a proposed Gay-Straight Alliance club at Carver Middle School in Leesburg. The demonstration came as the School Board weighed a possible ban on extra-curricular student clubs at secondary schools that are not tied to academics. Such a rule would keep the gay-straight student group from forming at the school. Many people who spoke were overcome with emotion as they urged the board to allow the gay-straight group to meet. Eighth-grader Bayli Silberstein, an openly bisexual 14-year-old, is heading the effort to get a group started at Carver Middle School after a previous effort was denied last school year. In November, Bayli reapplied but never received word from the principal about whether it was approved or denied. Bayli says the club is needed to help combat bullying of gay students at her school, and said she didn't expect such a reaction from board members. "I expected more from adults," she said. "I didn't think they would be so judgmental about this." The American Civil Liberties Union is supporting Bayli, saying that under the federal Equal Access Act schools can not discriminate among clubs based on what they think students should or should not discuss. If a school allows any student group that's not directly related to school curriculum to meet, then it cannot deny other student groups the same access.