A Virginia high school principal has repeatedly denied a student’s request to from a school chapter of a national pro-life club, on the basis that it’s not affiliated with any school curriculum. The student is fighting back.
The Thomas More Society said in a written statement:
Courtland High School principal Mr. Larry Marks has received a demand letter from the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based public interest law firm, on behalf of senior Maddie Sutherland and Students for Life of America, charging that his denial of a pro-life club at the school is unconstitutional and must be reversed.
“Public schools have a duty to treat all student groups equally,” said Jocelyn Floyd, Associate Counsel of the Thomas More Society. “By denying Maddie’s pro-life group on the grounds that it is not tied to the school’s curriculum, while allowing other non-curricular groups such as an equestrian club and lacrosse club, Courtland High School is violating their students’ First Amendment rights.”
Sutherland completed and submitted all the forms the school required to establish a club, and found a teacher willing to serve as faculty advisor. Because other non-curricular groups have been approved, the only apparent reason for her group’s denial is a disagreement on the issue of abortion.
“Maddie and her fellow students have the constitutional right to express their pro-life views,” Floyd continues. “As the Supreme Court has consistently emphasized, students do not lose their constitutionally-protected freedom of speech when they enter the schoolhouse gate.”
According to the Thomas More Society:
Thomas More Society’s letter states that Mr. Marks’ denial of the pro-life club, even though other non-curricular clubs exist at the school, violates the Federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment, and requests that Mr. Marks approve Maddie’s application for a pro-life club at Courtland High School by November 21.
“It is unfortunate that many pro-life high school students have faced resistance from hostile school administrators,” said Students for Life of America president Kristan Hawkins, according to the Thomas More Society statement. “Thanks to passionate pro-life students like Maddie who want to help educate their peers on the tragedy of abortion, and attorneys like those at Thomas More Society, we are able to get these needed pro-life clubs off the ground. Pro-life groups have every right to exist along with all other clubs at schools.”
The student expressed her own disappointment.
“Even though I had found a faculty advisor for our pro-life club and submitted all the necessary paperwork that the school required, Mr. Marks wouldn’t approve our pro-life club,” said Maddie Sutherland. “Abortion is the greatest violation of human rights in our time and I believe the pro-life message deserves a voice at my school.”