by Steven Ertelt
January 4, 2007
Albany, NY (LifeNews.com) — A New York middle school is the subject of a lawsuit from a pro-life firm after it barred a student from expressing his pro-life views. The unnamed student wanted to participate in the national Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity, where students stay silent during the day to speak up for unborn children and hand out fliers about abortion.
Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a complaint against Shenendehowa Central School District officials and the principal of Gowana Middle School on Wednesday.
At least a week before last October’s event, the mother of the pro-life student phoned Shenendehowa Central School District’s superintendent and spoke to a representative about her son’s plans.
She left her name and phone number, but was not informed that the event violated any school or district policy.
On October 24, Gowana Middle School’s principal told the student to turn his pro-life T-shirt inside out and cease the distribution of pro-life fliers. She allowed the student to remain silent, but prohibited him from telling anyone why, and forced him to remove a piece of red tape from his mouth that read “Life.”
In a school-wide announcement, the principal demanded that students who received a flier forfeit them to school officials.
The principal allegedly said “students shouldn’t be thinking about issues like that at your age" though school officials have previously allowed students to engage in free expression on other controversial social issues.
“The First Amendment does not permit school officials to ‘pick and choose’ which speech is allowable and which is not,” said ADF-allied attorney Tom Marcelle of Albany who is serving as co-counsel in the case.
“If 13-year-olds are old enough to participate in sexual education courses, they are certainly old enough to talk about issues such as abortion," Marcelle added.
ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman agreed saying, “Students do not abandon their free speech rights when they set foot on a school campus."
“The school’s egregious actions in denying this student’s free speech rights, while allowing students to speak on other issues, cannot be allowed to continue," he said.
ADF attorneys filed the complaint in the Northern District of New York in M.G. v. Bush and Shenendehowa Central School District.
The is the third complaint about students’ participation in the national event that ADF attorneys have filed. Two others were the subject of legal papers in December.