Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Around The Nation

Lake County School Board Tables GSA Rules For School Year
LEESBURG, FL -- Efforts to start-up a Gay-Straight Student Alliance club at a local middle school effectively failed after school board members voted to table discussions about proposed rules for the club.
Bayli Silberstein, an openly bisexual 14-year-old, at Carver Middle School in Leesburg has led the campaign to start the GSA to counter bullying at the school and give LGBT students a safe haven.
The controversy started after Silberstein applied to form the gay-straight alliance and said her application was denied last school year, and when she reapplied last November, she never received a response from the school’s principal about whether it was approved or denied.
The school board had considered eliminating all non-academic clubs from middle and high school campuses instead of allowing a student to form a gay-straight alliance, only backing off after the American Civil Liberties Union, citing the federal Equal Access Act, advised the school district that it cannot pick and choose which clubs to allow based on what they think students should or should not discuss.
Silberstein left Monday night's school board meeting fighting back tears after board members voted 4-1 to table a final vote that could have allowed the proposed GSA to form before the end of the school year.
At issue now reports the Orlando Sentinel, is a newly passed tweak in state law, [Senate Bill 1076, which was signed by Republican Governor Rick Scott Monday and goes in effect July 1.] which does not clearly define which grades are protected by a federal law that bans schools from discriminating against non-academic clubs.
School Board attorney Steve Johnson told the board that based on his review of other Florida laws, it appears "secondary" schools mean high schools — not middle schools. The School Board, in his opinion, isn't required to apply the federal law to middle schools, and board members can create rules however they want in those grades, he told members. But without any action Monday, campus principals are now left to decide handle school clubs.
Board members said they wanted to take more time to "workshop" the rules in light of the tweak in state law, partially called for by School Board members Tod Howard and Bill Mathias. Both men opposed the middle school GSA, suggesting that middle-school children were too young to be discussing gay-straight issues. Mathias recommended to table the issue and was joined by Howard, Chairwoman Kyleen Fischer and fellow board member Debbie Stivender.
"You're talking workshop," Fischer said. "That is the only way we can do this."
Board member Rosanne Brandeburg voted against the tabling, saying said she "wanted the public to be able to speak" and, because of the action, people could not comment on the policy. Brandeburg would not say whether she favored the middle school gay-straight club but said she was against getting rid of all clubs because of one.
Joyce Hamilton, an ACLU regional director told reporters after the vote that the ACLU was disappointed by the move and will evaluate whether or not to take legal action.
"I am concerned about the environment that is now created in the school that is being perpetuated by the adults who profess … to have the best interest of all students in mind," she said.
Silberstein said she will continue to push for the GSA to be allowed;
"I'm going to keep fighting," she said. "It's not going to stop me. I'm doing all I can to try and get my club."
Idaho DMV Changes Rules For Transgender Licence Requirements
BOISE, ID -- The Idaho Transportation Department this week agreed to new regulations allowing transgender drivers to change the sex designation on their driver's licenses without a note from a surgeon after members of the state's transgender community through the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) people complained that previous policy violated their civil rights.
Commencing in April 2011, the state agency began requiring a signed surgeon's note signifying the individual “had undergone a complete surgical change of gender.” Early this year, two people said they were blocked from getting their driver's licenses, based on this policy.
According to Vincent Villano, Director of Communications for the National Center for Transgender Equality, a Washington, D.C. based trans advocacy group, only a fraction of people undergoing a gender transformation do so through a surgical intervention, others utilize hormone treatments. 
The agency will now require a court order or affidavit from a doctor attesting to a gender change, according to a policy signed by director Brian Ness on Monday.
“We're glad that the state has recognized the important and legitimate needs of transgender Idahoans,” said Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho. 
“All Idahoans should be able to get a driver's license that correctly reflects who they are without disclosing sensitive personal information completely unrelated to their ability to drive. The state did the right thing in updating its policy.”
The agency said officials would be available to discuss the new regulation late Tuesday afternoon.
The ACLU said that people who are transitioning to a different gender say a driver's license reflecting the previous gender creates the potential for “outing” in situations where it's necessary to show proof of identity.
That's not only an unwarranted privacy intrusion, Hopkins said, but could create personal safety problems. In addition, many people who change their gender designation undergo only hormone treatments, not surgery, which is expensive and often unnecessary to allow for a person to live within their identity.
“What you have is a state agency basically setting a medical standard for something that isn't a medical standard,” said Hopkins, of the previous regulation. “These are medical decisions that are made between a patient and physician or medical care giver.”
Compiled from staff and wire service reports.