Monday, August 10, 2009

Final Ruling Comes in Case Involving Florida GSA

Plaintiff Hannah Page

Earlier this year we blogged about Yulee High School in Yulee, FL. Two high school students were trying to start a gay-straight alliance (GSA) and were told that they could not do so.

Today we received news from the ACLU of Florida that a partial settlement with the School Board of Nassau County (FL) has been reached. Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, approved by federal judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr. this past Friday, a permanent injunction has been entered against the district prohibiting discrimination against the high school’s GSA and forbidding retaliation against students and faculty who are associated with the GSA. The school district will also pay about $40,000 in attorneys’ fees and court costs associated with the litigation thus far to the ACLU.

The lawsuit was filed on February 10, 2009 after Yulee High School administrators repeatedly denied student requests for permission to form a GSA and to hold meetings at the high school, and previously at Yulee Middle School in the 2007-2008 school year. On March 11, 2009, Judge Adams entered a preliminary injunction ordering the school district to allow the GSA to meet at Yulee High School while the case made its way through the courts. The settlement agreement makes permanent the terms of that preliminary injunction.

“Every student deserves a safe and secure education. Bullying of gay students is epidemic in American schools and in Nassau County,” said Robert Rosenwald, ACLU of Florida LGBT Advocacy Project Director and lead counsel. “These courageous students took a stand to address the problem and the school policies that exacerbate it. Hopefully, Nassau school administrators will follow their students’ example and become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”

The judge’s order outlines what the school must do to comply, including:

• Allow the club to hold meetings on campus
• Allow the students to use the name Gay-Straight Alliance rather than one that does not use the word “gay”
• Allow the club to further its goals of advocating “for tolerance, respect and equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people” and curbing bullying and harassment against LGBT students
• Refrain from retaliating against students and faculty who participate in the GSA and the lawsuit.

“We started a gay-straight alliance because we wanted a safe space where all students can talk about harassment and discrimination that LGBT students face,” said ACLU plaintiff and Yulee student Hannah Page. “We’re grateful that the court recognized that the GSA should be allowed to meet and be treated like any other club.”

1 comment:

Summer said...

I'm Hannah's mother and I'm exceedingly satisfied with this ruling and proud of Hannah.

Nassau County chose to continue litigation of the middle school case, which accuses NC of denying Hannah access to the GSA in 8th grade. The school board evidently believes that they have grounds to challenge based on 'word against word' (the principal denies that he said no to the club) and the age of the students, as if they are too young to think about bullying based on sexual preference.

Because Florida considers middle schools "secondary schools" and because the Equal Access act protects ALL secondary schools, it's my understanding that they will lose the middle school case as well, and with it tens (if not hundreds) of thousands more in settlement or trial fees.

thank you for keeping this story in the media.