Florida judge says schools probably have the right to decide which students have to suffer violence quietly

In Lake County, Florida, a young girl at Carver Middle School wanted to start a Gay-Straight Alliance in order to combat bullying and other abuses she saw at her school. The administration refused her request, stating that the group was not related to the curriculum despite the fact that other groups were approved that were unrelated to the curriculum. The young girl, through her parents, brought a law suit against the school board.

The matter was pending on a motion for preliminary injunction from the girl and a motion to dismiss from the school. Judge Hodges, Middle District of Florida, denied both, finding that the girl does not have a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits mostly because HOMOSEXUALS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL, but that the girl does state a claim because he can’t ignore that a ton of other courts have ruled in favor of youths seeking to start GSAs.

The core of the opinion shows what the judge clearly does not understand:

Turning, then, to the reasonableness of the School Board’s action, it must surely be beyond question at this moment in the nation’s history that the subject of sexual orientation and the legal status of those in the LGBT Community is at the forefront of public debate, particularly with regard to same sex marriages. Moreover, it is a very controversial issue. Indeed, and sadly, it is common knowledge that the debate has often turned violent. It seems entirely reasonable, therefore, that those in charge of a public middle school with students twelve to fourteen years of age would want to distance the school and its pupils from a debate best left to more age mature educational levels. Indeed, even if a reasonable person could disagree with that assessment, the same reasonable person would be forced to agree that the contrary view, while perhaps mistaken, is nevertheless within the range of reasonableness. In any event, in addition to Hazelwood School District itself, there is ample authority for the proposition that the youth and immaturity of students below the high school level is an appropriate if not a vital consideration in determining whether a restraint on speech is permissible. See Walker-Serrano v. Leonard, 325 F.3d 412, 416 (3d Cir.2003) (Scirica, J.) (“[A]ny analysis of the students’ rights to expression on the one hand, and of schools’ need to control behavior and foster an environment conducive to learning on the other, must necessarily take into account the age and maturity of the student.”) (citations omitted). “Human sexuality provides the most obvious example of age-sensitive matter.” Id. at 417.

Carver Middle Sch. Gay-Straight Alliance v. Sch. Bd. of Lake County, Fla., 5:13-CV-623-OC-10PRL, 2014 WL 897072 (M.D. Fla. 2014)

How do you even begin to explain how this is wrong to someone who does not want to see it? The “debate” is not the source of violence in schools; the girl sought to gather with her peers and speak out against already existing violence. The judge’s opinion means that schools have a legitimate interest in silencing victims and those who want to stand with them in support, and that schools have a legitimate interest in deciding that students can come together to share ways to beat back opponents in organized sports but not come together to share ways to respond to actual peer abuse they say they suffer on a daily basis. The judge writes as though these kids do not already know what sexual orientation is. They clearly know what it is and they’re getting an unfortunate education in what it means.


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