FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 20, 2015

CONTACT:  ACLU of Florida Media Office,, (786) 363-2737

OCALA, FL - A federal judge has set a date for a trial in a lawsuit challenging the Lake County School Board’s refusal to allow students at Carver Middle School to form a gay-straight alliance (GSA). In an order issued Thursday, February 19, U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges said that trial will commence on March 2nd at 9:00am at the U.S. District Court in Ocala, Florida.

The lawsuit, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida in December of 2013 on behalf of a group of students at Carver Middle School, challenged the board’s refusal to allow the club to form as a violation of the students’ rights. It was the second lawsuit filed in less than a year challenging repeated efforts by Lake County school administrators to thwart students’ attempts to create a GSA.

“We look forward to the opportunity to argue before the court that the school district cannot pick and choose what kinds of groups students are allowed to start,” stated Daniel Tilley, ACLU of Florida LGBT rights staff attorney and lead counsel in the case. “Students and parents deserve to know that their school administrators treat all students with dignity and that they will be supported in efforts to make their schools safer and more welcoming places. This fight has gone on long enough, and in the intervening time, the number of GSAs working to fight bullying in schools across Florida has continued to grow. It’s time for the students at Carver Middle School to have their rights respected and have their opportunity to make their school safer.”

GSAs are student organizations made up of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and their straight allies that advocate for an end to bullying, harassment, and discrimination against all students. LGBT students in schools with GSAs are significantly less likely to experience victimization related to their sexual orientation and gender expression, and less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation, than students without a GSA.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of students led by Hannah Faughnan, an eighth-grader from Leesburg, Florida, whose efforts to create a GSA were repeatedly thwarted by school officials. In the lawsuit, attorneys for the ACLU of Florida and the ACLU’s LGBT Rights Project argue that the Lake County School Board’s efforts to stop the club from being formed violates the federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment.

More information on the lawsuit, including a link to the original December 2013 complaint, is available here: