Pennsylvania Student Free to Wear Pro-Life Abortion Shirt While Case Continues

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 19, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pennsylvania Student Free to Wear Pro-Life Abortion Shirt While Case Continues

by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 19
, 2009

Scranton, PA ( — A middle school student is free to wear his pro-life T-shirt proclaiming that "Abortion is Not Healthcare" after school officials stopped him from wearing it during the showing of a speech by President Barack Obama. Officials at Crossroads Middle School in Lewisberry ordered the student to remove the shirt on the day of Obama’s address.

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 several days ago against the West Shore School District for prohibiting the student from wearing the shirt.

Now, the court issued an order on Monday, which the school district agreed to, that prohibits school officials from enforcing problematic policies challenged by Alliance Defense Fund attorneys.

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

“It’s clearly unconstitutional to prohibit a student’s message on the grounds that someone might not like it," he said. "That’s why we’re pleased that school district officials are willing to halt enforcement of these flawed policies while this lawsuit goes forward. This will allow students to appropriately exercise their First Amendment rights during the course of litigation.”

The temporary order prevents enforcement of 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 –

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