Lake County school board meets over gay-straight alliance club



LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - The Lake County school board heard from parents and students about a possible ban on extracurricular clubs Monday.

The controversy started after a group of students at Carver Middle School in Leesburg tried to start a gay-straight alliance club.

More than 100 people, most dressed in red shirts, showed up at Monday's meeting and it had to be moved to Tavares High School to accommodate everyone, Channel 9 learned.

Bayli Silberstein, 14, said anti-gay bullying is out of hand in Lake County schools.

"When they have a clear shot to say something without getting in trouble, they'll usually take it," Silberstein said.

Silberstein is at the center of a push to form a gay-straight alliance club at the middle school and her supporters, young and old, packed the school board workshop.

"I was treated like a second-class citizen because of my sexuality," one girl said.

The board is being pressured by the American Civil Liberties Union to allow the club or be forced to ban all extracurricular clubs at all schools.

Some speakers don't want the board to be influenced by outside sources.

"That your decision is based upon students. It's not based upon the ACLU, who I would consider a very large bully," said the Rev. Brooks Braswell from the First Baptist Church of Umatilla.

Some board members are considering a ban on all clubs at the middle school level, and Silberstein said she's taking some heat from classmates.

"A lot of kids are already mad at me, thinking I'm the reason their clubs are getting canceled. But I waited to stand up for what I believe, and I wasn't going to take no for an answer," she said.

Board members said they want to poll principals to get their opinions on the importance of the extracurricular clubs.

The earliest the school board could vote on allowing the gay-straight alliance or possibly banning all extracurricular clubs would be at its March 11 meeting.