School board gets public input on Gay Straight Alliance club

Lake County School Board gets public input on Gay Straight Alliance club

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Just as a Lake County School Board workshop began on Monday afternoon, the board president promptly brought things to a halt, announcing a change of venue.  

The meeting was immediately moved down the road to the Tavares High School auditorium, because the crowd was so large, they were over capacity in the school board's chambers. 

This issue at hand is whether the board should allow a student to start a Gay Straight Alliance chapter at Carver Middle School, or if they should ban all clubs that are not directly related to the curriculum.

"If we want our children to be educated, we have to expose them to experience different parts of the world," said one high school student to the board members and a crowd of more than 200 people.  "This is a world of diverse people. We have to expose our students to all different ways of thinking or they'll never be prepared for American life."

He was more than 30 people signed up to speak.  Supporters of the Gay Straight Alliance wore red.  But not everyone shared that opinion.  Two health care professionals who addressed the board quoted a study from the American College of Pediatricians. 

"Declaring and validating a student's same sex attraction during adolescent years is premature and harmful," said Carol Moore. 

A Baptist minister voiced his opposition as well.  "A club of that nature, those activities would be a gateway for other groups to follow, groups not having anything to do with our education of our students," Pastor Ken Scrubs.  "We believe our school campuses should maintain a focus on academic prowess and not become a center of social expression."

Eighth-grader Bayle Silverstein is the teenager behind getting the Gay Straight Alliance started.  Before speaking, she handed the board a petition with more than 34,000 signatures backing her actions.  She said the purpose of the club is to help gay teens who are being bullied at school. 

"It's important because for students it's hard to concentrate on your studies if you're worried about safety at school. I know a lot of my friends have had to worry about that at school last year and this year and I don't want it to continue," said Bayle.  

A spokesperson for the district said this could get brought up for a vote a first vote as early as March 11.  It would require at least two readings, and a second vote likely would not take place until 28 days later.

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