A federal judge has tossed out a lawsuit filed by a former student at Okeechobee High School in Florida who said she was wrongfully denied the right to start a Gay-Straight Alliance on campus. Since the student has now graduated (after the long, drawn out court process) she's no longer affected by the school's decision to ban the club, U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore said.
The student sued the school board in November 2006, claiming it violated the federal Equal Access Act by allowing other clubs to meet on school grounds but banning the GSA. School board attorneys have said in court records that the alliance is a "sex-based club" that violates a state law requiring schools to teach abstinence "while teaching the benefits of monogamous heterosexual marriage."
The student said she started the club to provide a haven for students to talk about homophobia and to promote tolerance of one another, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression. In April, the judge ruled that the school had to allow the club to meet on campus while the case worked its way through court. The judge then rescinded the order last month after the student graduated and subsequent club officials also left the school.
The club has since regained four members and likely would have many more, but the school has made it nearly impossible for the club to keep members because the environment is so hostile to them. The judge has also refused to add any of the new members to the lawsuit, saying they were not affected by the original ban from the campus.
The need for this GSA is clear. The school administration and board are obviously hostile to LGBT students. It seems that schools have learned nothing from tragic events like the Lawrence King shooting. To deny students the chance to start an open dialogue about homophobia is quite simply just stoking the fires of anti-LGBT school violence.
This also shows the huge problem with abstinence only education programs. They are too often used as a means to discriminate against LGBT students and teach a religious viewpoint, not educate students.
When a school administration condones and promotes the idea that LGBT students are not equal, it gives a green light to other students that it is okay to bully and hurt them. It paints targets on the backs of our youth and, as we have unfortunately seen, leads to violence against the very students they are sworn to educate and protect.