A federal judge has upheld the right of a gay-straight alliance to meet at a middle school in Leesburg, Fla.
The judge’s order, issued Thursday, upholds an agreement reached late last month that allowed the group to meet until the end of the school year, next week, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Eighth-grader Bayli Silberstein had found her efforts to start the club blocked by her principal and school board members since January; at one point they considered banning all clubs instead of allowing it. The American Civil Liberties Union sued on her behalf, saying her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated.
The day after the suit was filed, the ACLU and the Lake County school district worked out an agreement so the group could meet, but the judge’s decision Thursday finalizes that and orders the school district to pay legal fees.
Silberstein expressed satisfaction with the ruling. “I can look forward to knowing that the students will continue to have a safe place,” she told the Sentinel.
However, the story may not be over. The court order does not say if the club can continue meeting in the next academic year, and the school board “is in the midst of finalizing a broad new policy for middle-school clubs that allows only clubs that promote critical thinking, business, athletics and arts in middle schools,” the Sentinel reports. “School district attorney Steve Johnson previously said the gay-straight club ‘does not fit’ that criteria.”