High school blocks for life club; administrators said flyers were too “political”: lawsuit

An Indiana high school student is continuing the fight to gain official recognition for a pro-life student club after school officials rejected it and accused its promotion of being too “political.”

A Noblesville High School student identified in court documents as “ED” is asking the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court decision upholding the school's derecognition of its Students for Life of America chapter.

The legal advocacy organization Alliance Defending Freedom, which specializes in religious freedom cases and represents the student, entered its appeal in the 7th Circuit last month, joined by the law firm of Charitable Allies.

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ED attempted to start an SFLA chapter in 2021. The student received approval from the principal to start the Noblesville Students for Life club, and more than 30 people joined the group at the school's fall fair, according to statement from ADF.

The school objected to a flyer posted by ED to promote a club meeting that featured students holding signs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. The students in the photos held signs bearing slogans such as “I Reject Abortion,” “Defund Planned Parenthood” and “I Am the Pro-Life Generation.”

“Students do not lose their free speech when they enter the school building,” the ADF stated. “All students have the constitutional right to express their ideas without fear of being silenced by school officials and having their clubs unrecognized.”

In a statement to The Christian Post on Monday, a spokesman for Noblesville Schools claimed the administration did not “redirect” the group because it opposed the pro-life club's mission. The representative stated that ED's club was approved and sponsored by high school faculty but the school took action regarding “multiple cases of disrespect for school protocols.”

“All student special interest clubs must be initiated and led by students – they cannot be directed or controlled by school staff or others in the community,” the spokesperson stated. “We are currently working to ensure club compliance with state laws and school policy. Once the club meets these, we will re-evaluate their status.”

According to the March ruling by federal judge Sarah Evans Barker, a Reagan appointee, school officials felt the poster was too “political.”

The Dean of Students, Jeremy Luna, instructed ED to fix the posters, saying that the flyer could not include a “picket” where people held signs that stated “Defund Planned Parenthood.”

Officials also had concerns that the group was led by an adult instead of students, according to the ruling. The student asked her mother to attend a September 2021 meeting with Luna about the club's roll call meeting due to a family rule prohibiting her from being alone with an adult.

Luna later spoke with principal Craig McCaffrey about the meeting with ED and her mother, saying he felt the latter “moved the conversation.” The principal later emailed ED's mother, informing her that a poster cannot contain “content that is political or that could disrupt the school environment.”

“Club promotional posters only state the name of the club and the details of the meeting time and place,” McCaffrey stated in the email. “When the students actually meet, they are able to talk about their common interests.”

“In his email, Dr. McCaffrey stated that since he was no longer “confident that this club was a student club,” he “therefore [was] removing the club's approval to meet at the school,'” the March ruling recounted.

McCaffrey also informed ED's mother that the high school had “renewed” its club approval process due to a “large number of requests.” The principal also told ED's mother that her daughter could contact the high school's assistant principal if she wanted to “apply for her club again next semester.”

The school district spokesperson shared the school's statement from March regarding the court ruling, adding that Noblesville “supports[s] our students form clubs they are passionate about and have dozens of student clubs representing a wide range of interests, activities and beliefs. That includes an active Students for Life club at Noblesville High School.”

Kristi Hamrick, vice president of media and policy at Students For Life of America and its sister organization, Students for Life Action, told CP that the organization “stands with students trying to get involved in the life of their schools.

“It is very common for pro-life students to face obstacles, such as unclear or secret policies, a heckler's veto when those who oppose a pro-life message can shut down an event, additional fees, or a slow walk to nowhere,” Hamrick. stated “Schools can require students starting groups, but it must be one standard for all.”

In answer to the March ruling, SFLA president Kristan Hawkins asserted that pro-life Americans often have to shoulder the “burden” of dealing with a “weaponized legal system.”

“We know that too many schools believe that parents should not have a presence or even a say in their children's education, and, in this decision, that is extended to the mere presence of a parent at a time when school officials have acted on ways. that was scary to a young high school student who wanted the support for her idea,” Hawkins said.

“The decision also tries to say that the violation of a student's rights didn't really matter because the board of trustees could have made a different call. But in depositions — as cited in the briefing — the authority to make decisions about student groups was delegated to the principal.”

Source: www.christianpost.com

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