Attorneys from the Thomas More Society sent a demand letter to administrators at Parkland High School in Allentown, Pennsylvania on May 17, 2017. The letter charges that the school’s denial of a request by some students to form a pro-life student group is unconstitutional and must be reversed.
Last fall, two students tried to start a Students for Life group at Parkland. The school’s assistant principal informed the duo that they needed an advisor and that they would also need to submit a club proposal. The girls found an advisor and submitted their proposal in March 2017.
The application was denied, verbally, by the assistant principal, who stated that the group was too “political” and “controversial.” Junior Grace Schairer, one of the club applicants, sent an email to the assistant principal on April 6, requesting to know what steps could be taken to overcome the objections to the student pro-life group. The school permits other clubs, including the Gay Straight Alliance, the Political Science Club, and the Fashion Club. She received no response.
Elizabeth Castro, a senior at the Allentown high school, observed, “We met all of Parkland High School’s requirements for beginning a club at the school. We were denied simply because we are pro-life.” She explained, “As a club, our purpose is to create a life-affirming culture at our school, educate our peers on the issue of life, hold diaper drives to support pregnant and parenting students, and become a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. The school is not only denying our right to start a group but also denying the opportunity for others at our school to learn about the greatest human rights social injustice of our time.”
“There is absolutely no question that the law protects the right of these students to form this club at their high school,” stated Jocelyn Floyd, Thomas More Society special counsel. She noted that the response from Parkland High School administration reflects a common misconception. “However,” she added, “this administration’s denial of a pro-life club is especially surprising, because this district’s policy expressly allows students to form clubs with ‘any lawful objective.’”
“The high school students we work with are passionate defenders of life and, oftentimes, their schools put up unnecessary and unconstitutional obstacles when they try to start Students for Life clubs,” said Students for Life of America president Kristan Hawkins. “The school’s baseless claim that the club would be too ‘controversial’ and ‘political’ is a common excuse we hear – and it’s always infringing on the First Amendment rights of pro-life students, treating them as second-class citizens because they happen to want to educate their peers on the horrors of abortion and help pregnant and parenting students at their school.”
The communication to Parkland administration from the Thomas More Society states that the denial of the pro-life club violates the First Amendment, the Federal Equal Access Act, and Parkland School District’s own policies. The letter demands that Parkland’s administration immediately approve the application for the Students for Life club at Parkland High School.
Read the demand letter here.