An Open Letter to Tod Howard & Bill Mathias

Mr. Howard & Mr. Mathias,

Today I read an article in the Seattle Times about your efforts to block students at Carver Middle School from forming a Gay-Straight Alliance. According to the article, you urged lawmakers in your state to tweak the definition of “secondary schools” from grades 6-12 to 9-12, so that Florida middle schools would not fall under federal protection granted by the Equal Access Act. As such, the Lake County School Board is free to bypass federal law and to continue its campaign to block the formation of this club. I might add that there are Gay-Straight Alliances at middle and high schools all across the country. Your objections to having a chapter at the Carver Middle School are curious and disappointing.

You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Bayli Silberstein is seeking to form the alliance as a means to address the issue of gay students being bullied at the school. It’s ironic that her efforts have been thwarted by adult bullies who abuse their power to legislate their own bigotry.  Your actions are odious, reprehensible and unethical. Ms. Silberstein was simply trying to make her school a better place. She became involved and engaged. She was proactive and responsible.  She saw a way to make a positive change and she stepped up to the plate. But her attempts have been obstructed by adults who are afraid of her and what she represents –tolerance, acceptance and self-respect. Ms. Silberstein demonstrates qualities that anyone would love to see in their child and the Lake County School Board is penalizing her for it. It is troubling that people like you are in a position to make decisions that will impact the lives of innocent young people.

Again, the two of you should be ashamed of yourselves. Your tactics are grimy. It is unacceptable for adults to use political power and clout to pick on LGBT kids. The eyes of the United States are watching you.  When the rights of any child are trampled on, it is incumbent on all of us to respond. I hope that you will do some deep soul searching and stop this outrageous campaign.  If you fail to do so, you will one day realize that you were on the wrong side of history. You have the choice now to do the right thing.


Katy Bourne



If you would like to let Mr. Howard and Mr. Mathias know how you feel about this matter, their contact information is below.

Tod Howard


Bill Mathias

352-326-3434, ext. 28