Lake Co. weighs banning clubs at middle schools

Discussion comes after student tries to create gay club

LEESBURG, Fla. - School leaders in Lake County will discuss whether or not to allow non-academic clubs at the district's middle school following a request to create a gay-straight alliance club.

According to the school board's agenda, the policy review for school clubs is the first topic up for discussion. The district's attorney will unveil his findings for the impact on clubs and organizations on middle school students.

The debate began at the beginning of February when a Carver Middle School student attempted to create a Gay-Straight Alliance club at the school. The school board then decided to look at the impact of all non-academic clubs.

Student Bayli Silberstein presented more than 34,000 signatures of support to the board. Supporters decked in red are hoping the numbers will help change board members minds about proposing to end all non-curricular student clubs.

"I wanted to stand up for what I believe in and I wasn't going to take no for an answer," said Silberstein.

The teen says the club would make the school safer for kids like her, who are bullied because of their sexual orientation.

"When I go into the high school, I want to make sure that the middle school is safe for the students who don't have someone to stand up for them," said Silberstein.

Board member Bill Mathias told Local 6 middle school clubs should be focused on curriculum, such as math club or science club.

"In high schools, there are clubs...that aren't necessarily curriculum-based that are very important to a well-rounded student," Mathias said.

But Equality Florida claims the school board is considering banning non-academic clubs to avoid the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance club.

"You're talking about eliminating the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Beta Club, the Key Club," said Equality Florida member Michael Farmer. "A Gay-Straight Alliance is a club that is really important for students who may be gay or lesbian."

A decision may come as early as next Monday.

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