A Florida teen is suing her middle school for the right to launch a Gay-Straight Alliance club, which she says will serve as a sanctuary for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and their allies.
Wearing a rainbow-colored bow tie, 14-year-old Hannah Faughnan testified in federal court Monday in the trial against Carver Middle School in Leesburg, which has reportedly rejected proposals for the GSA on multiple occasions.
"Bullying is a very, very difficult problem, and it's a problem for everyone. It's kind of like snowflakes -- no one case is like the other, and the GSA finds ways to solve these issues,” Faughnan said in court, per the Orlando Sentinel.
According to News 13, Carver Middle School has been resisting the formation of a GSA since at least 2013, when then-eighth grader Bayli Silberstein managed to establish a GSA by filing a lawsuit against the school with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The issue arose again last year when the school banned the club, citing a newly-revised policy which said all extracurricular clubs had to “promote critical thinking.”
This prompted Faughnan, with the support of the ACLU, to sue Carver once more.
“I want to make sure students after me will be able to form the club also and not have to go through this again,” Faughnan told News 13.
The ACLU said last year that the school’s decision to block the group’s formation is “a violation of the students’ rights.”
“Students deserve schools that will support them in ending bullying rather than exacerbating the problem,” said Daniel Tilley, an ACLU attorney and lead counsel in the case, per an August news release. “It’s time for the students at Carver to have the closure they deserve and have their right to establish this club to make their school a safer place respected.”
The school claims that its new club policy does not target the GSA specifically, but was born from a desire to limit clubs that are not athletic in nature or an extension of the school curriculum.
"Our policy was passed in order to comply with federal and state law, and it complied with those laws," said Lake County School Board attorney Steve Johnson, per Bay News 9. "There was no constitutional violation against anybody."
According to the Sentinel, the lawsuit against Carver “hinges on whether the ACLU can show that [the school] -- because it offers some courses for high school credit -- is subject to the Equal Access Act, which requires federally-funded secondary schools to treat all extracurricular clubs the same.”
The judge in this case, U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges, is expected to make a decision after April 1, WFTV.com reports.
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