Nebraska High School Refuses to Allow Pro-Life Students to Start a Pro-Life Club

State   |   Tom Ciesielka   |   Oct 3, 2016   |   3:19PM   |   Gretna, NE

Gretna High School administration and its lawyers have received a demand letter from the Thomas More Society.

The letter charges the Omaha, Nebraska, area school with unconstitutional discrimination of students, after junior Bridget Christensen was denied her right to form a school-sponsored Students for Life club, Dragons for Life. Christensen was thwarted in her attempt to start the student-led pro-life club by school administrators who told her the club was too “religious” and also “controversial,” both of which are illegal reasons to deny the group.

Thomas More Society Special Counsel Jocelyn Floyd, who serves as lead counsel for Students for Life of America’s high school clubs, noted that the Gretna High School administration response reflects a common misunderstanding of the law.  Thomas More Society attorneys have tackled similar scenarios in California, Iowa, Nevada, North Dakota, and Virginia.

“Pro-life students are simply asking for equal treatment,” said Floyd, “and this school’s rationale for denying the group is that the club doesn’t tie in with school curriculum—but neither do most of their other clubs. These dismissive bans on pro-life clubs are unlawful and violate the First Amendment.  If the school has a chess club, service club, gay-straight alliance, movie club, or any other extracurricular group, they may not exclude a school Students for Life club.”

Christensen explained, “Instead of dedicating my time to educating my peers about abortion and creating a strong Students for Life group at my high school that could be resource for those students facing unplanned pregnancies, I’ve been forced to argue against my own school administrators and fight for my First Amendment rights,” said  Christensen, a junior at Gretna High School. “My school administration has been treating me and my friends who want to the start the Students for Life club like second-class citizens by not allowing us to be a school-sponsored club, even though they allow many other clubs that may be considered controversial. This double standard is discrimination and it’s wrong.”

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Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, explained, “Pro-life students have the same right to form a club as any other student in high school and cannot be discriminated against for their pro-life views. Bridget’s rights were violated when the high school denied her request to form a Students for Life group in order to educate and inform her peers on the tragedy of abortion and to help those facing unplanned, crisis pregnancies. Just because the school may not agree with the pro-life position doesn’t give it the right to not allow the club to exist.”

Floyd pointed out that the school’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.