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Florida School Board Member’s Baffling Anti-GSA Arguments

Ms Silberstein

Ms Silberstein

Florida’s Lake County School Board wants to have it both ways. They do not want a Gay-Straight Alliance in their schools, but they do not want to seem to be blocking them by saying that the “board has not blocked the GSA” at a local middle school.

For Youth Allies, and for anyone paying attention, this is baffling even if it is par for the course. At one point, the school board was even threatening to ban all middle-school extracurricular clubs just to keep Bayli Silberstein from forming a GSA at her school. They have dropped that proposal, but will not authorize a GSA even now.

Apparently one of the reasons given by a school board member for not authorizing the GSA at the school is that it might cause the formation of “an anti-gay hate group.” Of course, the member’s religious views also seem to have been vitally important to him in trying to justify without actually explaining why the board keeps blocking the formation of the GSA.

The board member is apparently very upset with the coverage of the situation claiming that Youth Allies hasn’t listened to what the board meetings have said, and that”the press has not asked questions. I refuse to communicate with Erica Rodriguez of the Orlando Sentinel because of the bias in her reporting.”

This is a typical attempt to deflect criticism. Typically, biased politicians who do not want to be seen as biased often try to claim that the reporters are biased in their reporting. You see this out of Republicans all the time trying to claim that MSNBC, CNN, ABC…er…everyone but FOX is biased.

In the rather lengthy fight over the GSA, Youth Allies was asked by the board member to:

Google these sites
-GLSEN curriculum- it is split in to age appropriate sections. Is that to[o] much to ask for? I do not believe so and that has been the crux of my position from the start.
-Common Sense Media- it is a well respected guide for age appropriate material. Look specifically at the recommendations by age.
-Southern Poverty Law Center- take a look at the 59 hate groups in Florida. How would you write the policy to ensure middle school students are protected from them.

Youth Allies responded to the fact that the board members’ “main point with respect to the GLSEN and Common Sense Media materials appears to be that schools can reasonably treat middle school students differently from how they treat high school students. His argument, however, suffers from some fatal flaws.”

YA also noted that the board member “has engaged in an egregious misuse of GLSEN materials by citing them to justify restrictions on a GSA. GLSEN has not only conducted extensive research demonstrating the importance of GSAs in both middle schools and high schools as a general matter (see here and here), but it has cited that research to urge the Lake County School Board to allow Bayli’s GSA. Commenting specifically on the Lake County School District, GLSEN’s Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard noted that ‘[r]esearch has consistently shown that GSAs improve school climate’ and help “students develop a stronger connection to their school community.’ She added: ‘By denying access to a GSA, the school board is sending the wrong message that LGBT students are undeserving of the same opportunity to a quality education.’”

The rest of the exchange can be read here. The thing is, the board member’s arguments are specious. They have little bearing on reality, which is the big problem with this thing. His false concern is just that too, false. Schools have had to face the formation of hate groups in the past, and blocked them from being formed based upon safety concerns for the students outside the club.

Furthermore, there has not been an attempt to form an actual hate group at a school that I can find, at least in recent memory (that is the internet’s memory). Perhaps the board member might want to actually consider what his argument is before opening his mouth.

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