By: Rodolfo “Rudy” Pérez, Leesburg News Writer
| Janet Onnie from the|
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
of Marion Count
The meeting began at 6:00 p.m. inside the board room of the old round Court House in Tavares. In the meeting agenda, it was listed as one of the last items on the list, but due to the large crowd, it was moved to be discussed about early on.
The discussion began with Kyleen Fischer, Chairperson, asking the board attorney about the new law that Governor Rick Scott had signed into effect the morning of the school board meeting. Previously, there was a clear definition stating that grades six – 12 qualify under the Equal Access Act. This means that the school board could not ban a specific club or organization on the school, unless they banned all clubs or organization in the school. In simple terms, it’s either all or none. However, Governor Rick Scott’s new law removed that definition from the state statue, leaving no clear definition as to whether middle schools qualify under the Equal Access Act.
Though there is no definition stating that it does qualify, there is also no definition stating that it does not qualify either. This is when District 2 member Rosanne Brandeburg asked the attorney, “if there is no clear definition, would it not be left up to the interpretation of the board?” The attorney answered in a rather confusing manner not stating either yes or no. Ms. Brandeburg asked again if the board could interpret in their own way. This is when the attorney said yes.
Bill Mathias, District 1 member, then made a motion to table the GSA topic until such a time that a clear definition could be made. Ms. Fischer asked there was anyone to second the motion, but none seconded. This is when Ms. Fischer crossed the line and asked another question to the attorney after the motion to table the topic had already been opposed. Ms. Fischer then spoke about the lack of understanding on whether middle schools qualify under the Equal Access Act and asked Mr. Mathias to make his motion again in clear violation of Parliamentary Procedures and Robert Rules of Florida as the motion was already opposed. Ms. Fischer then seconded the motion. All School board members supported the motion with the exception of District 2 member Rosanne Brandeburg. The GSA club at this point was tabled.
Supporters of the GSA were very upset with the decision, while Tea Party members and Christian organizations applauded and cheered the decision to stop a club that would unite gays and straights in an effort to stop bullying at Carver Middle school. Former chair of the Lake County Democrats Executive Committee Nancy Hulbert was upset with how Ms. Fisher manipulated the board by asking Mr. Mathias to make his motion again. She stated “we have procedures for a reason, but when a board manipulates the producers to get a result, it flies into the face of Democracy.” Reverend Janet Onnie from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Marion County was very disappointed with the decision made and said it was a real disservice to our youth.” That “this was an opportunity to show kids a safe learning environment.”
It is unknown as to when a clarification of whether middle schools qualify under the Equal Access Act will be known. Until then, Mr. Mathias and the school board will continue to table the topic for discussion.