Lake Co. school board tables approval of gay-straight alliance in middle school



LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - The Lake County school board tabled a decision on the fate of a controversial middle school club after a heated meeting Monday night.

The controversy centers on a gay-straight student alliance club, which board members already approved in a split vote.

 School board members voted 4-to-1 to table the final vote on student club rules.

The postponement came because of a change in state law that re-defines a secondary school, so board members asked for more time to deal with the club rules after they had approved the gay-straight student alliance last month.

That caused Bayli Silberstein to break down as she left the meeting.

The 14-year-old activist is behind a push to start the gay-straight alliance at Carver Middle School.

She had hoped to have it up and running before she entered high school in the fall.

"I feel like they're trying to get me to go into high school and I'm going to forget about it," Silberstein said.

The decision upset her.

"I feel like everyone's disappointed right now and a lot of people in there are angry," Silberstein said.

The district could decide to ban all non-academic clubs at the middle school level

School board member Bill Mathias had been against the open club policy in middle schools and thought holding off on a decision was the right thing to do.    

 “Since we don't have a clear definition of what we're going to do, the best thing is to table it -- which I moved for,” Mathias said.

Lake County school board members had been receiving a lot of emails.

Chris Patton, district spokesman for Lake County Schools, showed Channel 9 the messages Monday for and against a gay-straight alliance club at Carver Middle School.

"Most of them are from this weekend and today," Patton said.

Last month, the board narrowly approved it in a 3-to-2 vote. One more vote was necessary to seal the deal.

Eight-grader Silberstein pushed the issue and got the support of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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

The tri-county Tea Party had rallied its troops, canceling its meeting to go to the school board meeting instead.

"I think it's nuts to be able to say we ought to have a club that's going to expose sixth-graders to a behavior and lifestyle that has to do with sex," said Tea Party member Vance Jochim.

The emails Channel 9 read appeared to be evenly split.

A supporter of the club wrote, "It's time to show the world that Lake County is not a mean-hearted, bigoted county."

Another from a parent opposed slammed board members who voted for it, writing, "You have become a disgrace to yourself and your chosen profession. Be ashamed."

"We don't think our kids -- sixth-graders -- should be confronted with issues like this in the middle school," Jochim said.

Over 300 people attended the meeting.

School board members will meet on the issue, then likely hold a final vote in about a month.    

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