I’ve written several times about the Federal lawsuit in Okeechobee, Florida, where the school has refused to allow the formation of a GSA club. Judge K. Michael Moore has now granted a preliminary injunction in the case ordering the school to allow the club to meet pending the outcome of the case. You can see the order here. In so doing, the judge said that the plaintiffs had established “a substantial likelihood of success on the merits” of the case. And the judge seemed to reject the entire legal strategy that the school is offering, whereby it grants that the Equal Access Act (EAA) applies but argues that the club is “sex-based” and therefore violates state law requiring the school to teach sexual abstinence. That legal strategy is the brainchild of David Gibbs. Remember him? He was one of the attorneys for Terri Schiavo’s parents.
Though numerous Federal courts around the country have ruled that the EAA does require recognition of GSA clubs, a fact cited in the judge’s ruling, the school is arguing that the EAA’s statement that the act should not be “construed to limit the authority of the school, its agents or employees, to maintain order and discipline on school premises” and “to protect the well-being of students and faculty” somehow justifies their refusal to allow the club to meet. How such a club could threaten order and disciplien or the well-being of students and faculty is beyond me.
The school relied upon a 2004 ruling from a Texas court, Caudillo v Lubbock, that ruled that a school could deny recognition of a similar student club because that club’s website had links to “obscene and explicit sexual material.” But, Judge Moore said, none of those facts are present in this case. There isn’t even an allegation that the club either has, or intends to, exposed anyone to obscene material. In short, the wording of the injunction pretty much eliminates all of the legal arguments the board intended to make. Will they settle the case now and give up? Stay tuned.