Judge Rejects Okeechobee School Board’s Attempt to Block Gay-Straight Alliance Anti-Discrimination Lawsuit

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
March 13, 2007 12:00 am

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OKEECHOBEE, FL – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today applauded U.S. District Court Judge K. Michael Moore’s decision to deny the Okeechobee School Board’s motion to dismiss the case alleging discrimination against gay and straight students at Okeechobee High School.

“Today was a major victory for the students of the Okeechobee Gay-Straight Alliance. We are pleased that Judge Moore found that the Okeechobee County School Board can be held liable for its violation of these students’ federally guaranteed rights,” said Rob Rosenwald, Director of the ACLU of Florida’s LGBT Advocacy Project. “We are hopeful that Judge Moore will now quickly grant a preliminary injunction so that all Okeechobee students, both straight and gay, can finish this school year in a climate that is safe and free from discrimination.”

The ACLU is seeking a preliminary injunction on behalf of the Okeechobee High School students so that they can meet on school grounds – as other non-curricular clubs already do – while the lawsuit proceeds. The lawsuit ultimately seeks guaranteed equal access for the Okeechobee GSA. Under the federal Equal Access Act, schools that allow one club to meet on campus are required to allow any club to meet on campus. The ACLU has won several similar cases across the country, most recently in White County, Georgia.

“We are confident that at the end of the day the school board will have to cease discriminating and right its wrongs,” Rosenwald said.

Additionally, because Judge Moore found that the school board can be held liable to the GSA students, the ACLU agreed to release Okeechobee High School principal Toni Wiersma from the lawsuit.
The original hearing on the defendants’ motion was held in Miami on Wednesday, February 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Gay-Straight Alliance of Okeechobee high School et al v. Okeechobee School Board was filed in U.S. Federal Court on November 15, 2006. Counsel for the case include Rosenwald and Randall Marshall, ACLU of Florida Legal Director.

More information can be found at: www.aclufl.org/issues/lesbian_gay_rights/index.cfm.

The order in this case can be viewed online at: www.aclufl.org/pdfs/Legal%20PDfs/GSA_MTD_denial.pdf

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