Gonzalez v. School Board of Okeechobee County - Case Profile

July 20, 2009

Florida high school gay-straight alliance

Amber Sewell and Yasmin Gonzalez
Yasmin Gonzalez (left) and Amber Sewell (right), students at Okeechobee High
Photo courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel.

The ACLU is suing Okeechobee High School after school officials violated the Equal Access Act and denied students the right to form a gay-straight alliance.

When students at Okeechobee High School in Okeechobee, Florida wanted to form a gay-straight alliance (GSA), the school denied their request, saying it did not allow “non-curricular” clubs to meet. But the school did allow non-curricular clubs, such as the Key Club, Future Farmers of America and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, to meet on school grounds. Feeling the school was discriminating against the club, GSA president Yasmin Gonzalez contacted the ACLU, which filed suit against the Okeechobee County school board. The suit accused the school of violating the federal Equal Access Act, which requires schools to provide space for all non-curricular clubs if they are going to provide space for any non-curricular club.

Attorneys for the school board claimed that the club was denied access because it is a “sex-based” club, and that allowing it to meet would be disruptive and harmful to children at the school. The school also claimed that allowing a “sex-based” club to meet would violate the school’s abstinence-only education policy. The court disagreed, and entered a preliminary injunction ordering the school board to grant access to the GSA on equal terms with all other clubs. The judge, in a first of its kind decision, ruled that a GSA is not, by definition, a “sex-based club” and that it does nothing to interfere with the district’s abstinence education policy.

Status: VICTORY! Judge rules that school officials must let the GSA meet on campus and holds that schools must provide for the well-being of gay students.

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