Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Around The Nation

School Board Considers Banning All Non-Academic Clubs After ACLU Threatens Suit
TAVARES, FL -- The Lake County School Board is considering only allowing academic clubs on middle and high school grounds that would keep a local Gay-Straight Alliance student group from forming at the district's Carver Middle School located in Leesburg.  
School board members discussed the possible changes Monday during a workshop after the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter that supported 14-year-old Bayli Silberstein, who wanted to form a Gay-Straight Alliance student club at Carver. According to the ACLU, Silberestein wanted to form a "The Gay and Straight Alliance" club to combat bullying against LGBT students. Silberstein's application-which detailed instances of children being shoved or called names because of their sexuality- had been denied last school year but she had re-applied to form the group this past October. 
Board members said that they now want to limit extra-curricular student groups in secondary schools. According to reports from local media outlets WFTV and The Orlando Sentinel, the new rules would affect all other clubs to include bowling and junior beta, which is a community service club. Year book and student council clubs could also be cut.
The ACLU, citing the federal Equal Access Act, says school districts cannot pick and choose which clubs to allow based on what they think students should or should not discuss. If a school allows any student group to meet that doesn't have a mission directly related to school academics, then it cannot deny other students groups the same access, the ACLU says.
Lake County School Officials said if they decide to get rid of all nonacademic clubs, they can still exist, but there wouldn’t be any fliers or announcements on school property. Those clubs also wouldn’t be listed on the district website. But school officials said the clubs would still be allowed to meet, just not on school property.
During the Monday session, School Board Chairperson Kyleen Fischer spoke in favor of banning the extra-curricular clubs in secondary schools. Fischer said the district should focus on education and that "social engineering" is not the job of the School Board. "It is not our job to socially mentor students, but to educate them," she said.
Parents told a reporter for WFTV they don't think getting rid of any clubs is a good idea.
“Everybody gets hurt if they don't allow an organization, because they’re afraid of it,” said parent Betsy Harrington.
Lambda Legal Urges Federal Appeals Court To Uphold Law Banning "Ex-Gay" Therapy For Minors
SAN FRANCISCO, CA --Lambda Legal, representing 12 regional and national organizations working with LGBT youth, filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday urging the court to uphold the California law known as SB 1172, that prohibits state-licensed mental health providers from using dangerous efforts to change sexual orientation - sometimes referred to as "ex-gay therapy" - with minors.
"The organizations we represent in this brief have experienced, observed, and cared for LGBTQ youth suffering the harms of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE)," Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg said adding;
"From community centers to therapists' organizations to crisis hotlines, they have witnessed first-hand the casualties of baseless promises in the guise of 'therapy' to change sexual orientation and gender identity. SB 1172 protects children and families from the trauma of this so-called 'ex-gay therapy' and the trail of fractured lives and ruptured families left in its wake."
Two separate lawsuits were filed challenging the law: Pickup v. Brown and Welch v. Brown, and the judges in these two cases issued conflicting rulings.
In Pickup, the U.S. District Court judge refused to delay enforcement of the law, while in Welch a different U.S. District Court judge granted the plaintiffs' motion seeking a delay in implementation. The plaintiffs appealed the Pickup ruling to the Ninth Circuit of Appeals, as did the defendants - California Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials - in the Welch case. It is expected the appeals in both cases will be combined.
Medical mental health professionals have found that efforts to change a young person's sexual orientation pose critical health risks, including depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide. For minors, who are often subjected to these practices at the insistence of parents who don't know or don't believe that the efforts are harmful, the risks of long-term mental and physical health consequences are particularly severe. In addition, when these efforts "fail," many LGBTQ children are kicked out of their homes.
"I had great parents, but lost my relationship with them because they thought there was a cure that I could pursue that I was stubbornly refusing to accept," states one of the individuals subjected to SOCE as a youth who is quoted in the brief. 
"I still battle depression and anxiety, and I think it really stems back to that. I don't think that bogus pseudoscience should be available, because it gives people who want to believe a different reality is possible the ability to force [SOCE]. It allows parents who are wishing for a different scenario to damage their children. They could actually move forward and develop a strong bond with their kids, and that time is lost."
Read the brief here.