Iowa High School Principal Prohibits Students From Creating a Pro-Life Club

State   Tom Ciesielka   Apr 16, 2015   |   4:43PM    Hampton, IA

Principal Steve Madson of Hampton-Dumont High School has received a demand letter from Students for Life of America’s law firm, the Thomas More Society, on behalf of student Isabell Akers and Students for Life of America. The letter charges that Principal Madson has unconstitutionally discriminated against Isabell by denying her the right to form a Students for Life club at Hampton-Dumont High School.

“The pro-life students are simply asking for equal treatment,” said Jocelyn Floyd, Associate Counsel of Thomas More Society. “Here the school is trying to claim that its lesser treatment is justified because Isabell’s club doesn’t tie in with the school’s curriculum—but neither do most of the  school’s other clubs, such as the book club, mock trial, or SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving). By law, Hampton-Dumont High School administrators must give their pro-life students the same opportunities as they give all these other school clubs.”

Isabell Akers, a senior at Hampton-Dumont High School, attempted to start a Students for Life club when she was a sophomore, but she met resistance from school administrators. After a series of delays and denials, the school eventually allowed Isabell’s club to meet periodically in the spring and fall of 2014, but not to advertise or host events. As Isabell will soon graduate, she tried once again in February to acquire school club status for her Students for Life club, to leave an established club in place for future high school leaders. However, the principal once again denied Isabell’s application, claiming that the Students for Life club is too “controversial.”

“I wanted to spend my high school career educating my fellow students on the beauty of human life and providing resources to girls at my school, but instead I have been fighting for my First Amendment rights,” said Isabell Akers, senior at Hampton-Dumont High School. “By forbidding our Students for Life club from putting up posters and not letting us be included in the yearbook with other clubs, the school administration has been treating us like second-class citizens.”

“High school administrators have no right to discriminate against pro-life students,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. “On the contrary, high school students have the right to form Students for Life clubs to educate and inform their peers on the tragedy of abortion and to help those facing unplanned, crisis pregnancies. We are thankful for brave students like Isabell, who reached out to Students for Life of America and for our attorneys at the Thomas More Society for their help to make Isabell’s Students for Life group an official, school-based club, with the same rights as her peers.”

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As Thomas More Society states in their demand letter, the District’s refusal to officially recognize the Students for Life club as a proper student organization constitutes a violation of the students’ rights under both the federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. All students who wish to form non-curricular clubs must be treated equally, even if the clubs they wish to form are religious or political.

The Thomas More Society requests that the principal promptly approve the Students for Life club at Hampton-Dumont High School.

Link to the demand letter here.

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