Administrators at a Pennsylvania high school have banned a pro-life club because it is too “controversial and political,” yet the school does allow a pro-gay club, a political science club, a fashion club, a chess club, and other student-led groups.
Liz Castro, a senior at Parkland High School in Allentown and her friend Grace Schairer, a junior, first attempted to start a Students for Life club, last fall, according to Lifesite News.
They were told they needed an adviser. They got one, who later withdrew. But by March, they had an adviser and were all set to start the “Trojans for Life” club.
They soon found out the real problem: Parkland High officials didn’t want a pro-life club at school.
After going through the entire process to start a group and securing an adviser, the assistant principal turned them down, saying a pro-life club was too “controversial” and “political.”
Undaunted, the pro-lifers sent an email to the assistant principal on April 6, asking what they could do so that Trojans for Life could exist alongside Parkland’s political club, gay-straight alliance, and other student groups. They received no answer.
“We met all the requirements (but) were denied simply because we are pro-life,” Castro said. “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 my right to start a group but denying the opportunity for others at my school to learn about the greatest human rights social injustice of our time,” Castro added.
“Liz is being discriminated against by her school simply because she is pro-life and wants to share that message,” Students for Life of America’s Kristina Hernandez told LifeSiteNews. “That’s unconstitutional.”
“We are so proud to support Liz and her fellow pro-life students as we work to make sure they are allowed to form their Students for Life group,” Hernandez added. “Her courage is an example to all the other pro-life students in the country who are facing similar situations and obstacles at their schools.”
“Students shouldn’t be afraid to come forward and fight for their free speech rights,” Hernandez said, “not only to educate their peers on abortion but to help their peers who may be facing unplanned pregnancies.
The students appealed to the non-profit, public interest law firm, the Thomas More Society for help. On May 17, attorneys from Thomas More sent a demand letter to administrators at the school, charging that their denial of the request by students to form a pro-life student group was unconstitutional and must be reversed.
“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.
“They told me that we couldn’t have our club because it was too controversial and too political at the time,” Liz Castro explained.
“So just anything that other people disagree with is not allowed, do you think you were singled out for that?” Carlson asked.
“I think they were definitely discriminating against us because we were pro-life,” Castro answered.
“That kind of club, an anti-abortion club,” Carlson asked, “is singularly offensive to the kind of people that run the schools isn’t it?”
“Yeah, you would think that in public institutions free speech would be a no-brainer,” said Kristin Hawkins. “These are taxpayer-funded institutions and yet this is what we see time and time again in high schools and colleges across the country.”
“So do you suppose, Liz, if there was a club — I dunno, a feminist club or women’s rights club, women’s empowerment club that supported legal abortion — would they be allowed to organize on campus?” Carlson asked.
“I feel like they may be able—they may allowed them to have their club,” Castro responded.
“So what are you going to do, have you given up?” he asked.
“No, not at all,” Castro said. “I’m a senior so this is kind of it for me, but my friend Grace who is also trying to start the club with me is definitely not giving up and she’s gonna try to start the club again.”