Judge dismisses lawsuit against Lake County Schools over gay-straight alliance club

ACLU sues school board over rejection of club at Carver Middle School


LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit against the Lake County school board over the rejection of a Gay Straight Alliance club at Carver Middle School.

The federal lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union stemming from a suit filed in 2013 where a 14-year-old said Carver Middle School would not let her form a gay-straight alliance.

After the ACLU threatened to sue, the district allowed her to run the club, but only for a few months. The school board banned any middle school clubs that did not promote business, athletics or the arts in the summer of 2013. The ACLU then filed another lawsuit.

According to a release from Lake County Schools, the school board revised its governing clubs policy to cover three sections for each level of schools. The policy said that each club must strengthen and promote critical thinking, business skills, athletic skills and performing/visual arts and must be approved by the superintendent.

The GSA application was submitted for the 2013-2014 school year but was found to not be specific with the purposes of the club, according to officials. Officials said they never received a revised application, instead there was "a deliberate choice made by the GSA to proceed with litigation that might well have been avoided through the simple process of resubmitting an enhanced application," according to U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges.

Because no club application was submitted for the 2014-2015 school year, "there is nothing to enjoin the School Board to do or not to do," Hodges wrote. 

The court also said that Carver Middle School was not covered by the Equal Access Act, which requires secondary schools to provide equal access to clubs because it is not a secondary school.

"The School Board was well within its rights to undertake a complete overhaul of its policies concerning approved or school sponsored clubs, and to draw distinctions based on differences in maturity levels between elementary schools, middle schools and high schools – distinctions not previously spelled out in its written policies,'' Hodges wrote. "Applying the new middle school policy to the GSA therefore, did not violate the constitutional rights of the GSA members."

Read the judge's full memorandum opinion here.