Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Okeechobee GSA Lawsuit Update

I wrote a while back about a lawsuit in Okeechobee County, Florida, where the school has refused to allow the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance club. Here’s an update. The school has filed a motion to dismiss the case

Okeechobee County school officials have asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by an Okeechobee High School senior and the club she created to promote tolerance of homosexuals, whose members say they wrongfully were denied the right to meet on school grounds.

Attorneys for the Okeechobee County School Board and Toni Wiersma, principal of the high school, say that the Gay-Straight Alliance of Okeechobee High School isn’t entitled to a claim under the federal Equal Access Act. Furthermore, the alliance and Yasmin Gonzalez, a founder of the club and the co-plaintiff in the case, have no grounds to sue Wiersma under the federal act, since she is not a public secondary school, according to a motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court.


The motion to dismiss doesn’t have a chance in hell of being granted. I assume there is likely a motion for summary judgement that has also been filed by the plaintiffs, which is much more likely to be granted given the many courts that have already ruled that the Equal Access Act requires schools to allow GSA clubs to form and meet on school grounds. But here’s the really interesting part of the article:

“I think this is a garbage lawsuit,” said David Gibbs, a Seminole-based attorney working for the school board and Wiersma.

Anyone remember David Gibbs? Actually, there are two. David Gibbs Jr. is the founder of the Christian Law Association; David Gibbs III is an attorney with the CLA, and he was also the attorney for the parents of Terri Schiavo. I’m not sure whether it’s father or son representing the school here, but whichever it is will likely lose this case badly if they keep making bad arguments like this:

Gibbs said the principal had a responsibility to refuse the club. Florida statute requires schools to teach abstinence, “while teaching the benefits of monogamous heterosexual marriage.” The gay-straight alliance requires members, even heterosexual students, to be “allied” with sexual orientations that the school is mandated to discourage, according to the defendants’ motion.

Now imagine for a moment that a group of students formed a creationist club and held meetings where they bashed evolution. But state law requires the teaching of evolution. Do you suppose Gibbs would be making this argument? Not a chance in hell. Student groups are allowed to discuss and advocate things and that has nothing to do with laws prescribing curriculum content. You can see the ACLU’s complaint here.

Comments

  1. #1 kehrsam
    December 16, 2006

    The Motion is laughable, at least if the description in the article Ed linked is accurate. They are asking 1) To dismiss the School Board as a defendant, because “[the principal] does not have the authority to set policy.” On this they bootstrap 2) To dismiss the principal as a defendant, since she is not a school or school board.

    All I can say is: Wow. Oh, I can also say Rule 11 is in order, but that comes later.

  2. #2 kev
    December 17, 2006

    But wait, I don’t get it. School is mandated to discourage *sex*. The club isn’t a lets-all-have-sex-abstinence-be-damned club, is it? If it were, that argument might almost make some logical sense (even if it isn’t good policy or right). The club is about sexual orientation, harassment, discrimination, and tolerance. Not abstinence or lack of it.

  3. #3 Peiter
    December 18, 2006

    The school is mandated to discourage sex?!? Is the school actually required to teach that monogamous, heterosexual marriage is the best sexual orientation?

  4. #4 D
    January 11, 2007

    Here is a piece from an article on the ACLU website -

    The school recognizes other extracurricular clubs – including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Key Club, and the Rodeo team – all of which meet regularly on school grounds.

    Now explain to me exactly which one of those clubs has anything to do with a sexual preference???

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    January 11, 2007

    D wrote:

    The school recognizes other extracurricular clubs – including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Key Club, and the Rodeo team – all of which meet regularly on school grounds.

    Now explain to me exactly which one of those clubs has anything to do with a sexual preference???

    It doesn’t matter whether they are about the exact same subject; it matters that they are all non-curricular clubs allowed to meet on school grounds. The Equal Access Act is very clear on this: if a secondary school allows any non-curricular club to meet and be recognized as a student group, it cannot refuse to recognize any such club based on the content or viewpoint of the group’s formation or mission.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.