Pennsylvania School Targets Student With "Abortion is Not Health Care" T-Shirt

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 12, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pennsylvania School Targets Student With "Abortion is Not Health Care" T-Shirt

by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 12
, 2009

Scranton, PA ( — Officials at a Pennsylvania school targeted a middle school student who came to class wearing a pro-life t-shirt with the message, "Abortion is Not Health Care." Officials at Crossroads Middle School in Lewisberry ordered the student to remove the shirt on the day of President Obama’s public address to students.

School officials deemed the shirt “inappropriate,” saying it might insult somebody — even though the school routinely allows students to wear other shirts with other potentially offensive messages.

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court last week against the West Shore School District for prohibiting the student from wearing the shirt.

"Pro-life students shouldn’t be censored for their views,” ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman told on Monday.

“It’s clearly unconstitutional for school officials to prohibit a student’s message on the grounds that someone might not like it. The school routinely allows students to wear a wide variety of messages on their shirts without any concerns, but this student has been singled out even though his shirt caused no disruption and is clearly within the bounds of constitutionally guaranteed free speech," he said.

The student wore his shirt to express his religious viewpoint on abortion and did so without incident until his fifth period teacher sent him to the principal’s office to see whether the shirt was “appropriate.”

There he was ordered to remove his shirt on the grounds that it might insult somebody. He was sent to the nurse’s office, where he turned his shirt inside out because he had no other shirt to wear.

ADF attorneys are challenging two school district policies.

One is a “student expression” policy, which prohibits speech that “seek[s] to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect, or point of view” and speech that “contain[s] material otherwise deemed harmful to impressionable students.”

The other is a “dress and grooming” policy that prohibits “clothing which creates a hostile educational environment or evidences discriminatory bias or animus” or displays “inappropriate words.”

“These are highly unconstitutional policies that demonstrate that there’s a widespread need for schools to be educated about the First Amendment. Under the current wording, a student could actually be prevented from saying that his beliefs are true,” Cortman explained.

“The policies also allow officials unrestricted discretion in determining what speech violates the policies. In this case, they clearly singled out this student’s pro-life speech and illegitimately censored it," he continued.

ADF-allied attorney Randall Wenger with the Independence Law Center in Harrisburg is assisting with the case, E.B. v. West Shore School District, filed October 5 with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Related web sites:
Alliance Defense Fund –

Sign Up for Free Pro-Life News From

Daily Pro-Life News Report Twice-Weekly Pro-Life
News Report
Receive a free daily email report from with the latest pro-life news stories on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here. Receive a free twice-weekly email report with the latest pro-life news headlines on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here.