In a huge win for pro-life student Maddie Sutherland, Students for Life of America and the Thomas More Society, Courtland High School in Spotsylvania, Virginia, has granted Maddie the right to start her pro-life club immediately.
“Just as students don’t lose their constitutional rights when they enter the schoolhouse gates, high school seniors don’t lose their First Amendment rights simply because they’re in their last year of school,” said Jocelyn Floyd, Thomas More Society associate counsel. “While we’re saddened that it took legal intervention to get the school to act, we’re thrilled that the school has now explicitly acknowledged their commitment to free speech ideals and protected Maddie and her fellow seniors’ core First Amendment rights to speak about life on campus at Courtland High School.”
“I am so excited that the school granted my request to start the pro-life club immediately,” said Maddie Sutherland, a senior at Courtland High School. “Thanks to Students for Life of America and the attorneys at the Thomas More Society, I will be able to educate my peers on alternatives to abortion, attend the March for Life rally in Washington, DC, and support expectant mothers through a local pregnancy resource center. I am grateful to principal Mr. Larry Marks and the school board for approving the pro-life club and can’t wait to get started with my fellow pro-lifers at Courtland.”
Maddie had submitted her application to Principal Marks on September 23, and when she found out that the application was missing some elements, she resubmitted it. However, Principal Marks did not reply to her re-submitted application within the ten-day response period allotted by school policy. The Thomas More Society sent a demand letter on November 11 to request the school approve the club. The school responded on November 13 to approve the pro-life club, but it would only be allowed to start next fall – after Maddie and her pro-life friends, all prospective officers of the club and seniors themselves, will have graduated. The school cited the “June 1st application deadline” as the reason for postponing the club’s inception until next year.
On November 14, the school board announced that the club had been approved without contingencies and could start immediately.
“This is a huge victory for Maddie and should encourage any pro-life student to fight for the right to start a pro-life club at their school,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. “High school pro-life clubs are often where the first fires of pro-life activism are lit and Maddie will have the opportunity now to educate her peers on the pro-life position on abortion. Maddie is a great example of courage for standing up for her pro-life beliefs and fighting to protect the rights of the preborn.”