The legal group representing pro-life students who say their high school administrators threw away their pro-life display released new details about the situation on Thursday after the school district accused them of going to the media, contrary to their conversations.
Liberty Counsel, a pro-life legal group representing the pro-life students at Carmel High School in Indiana, said it contacted the media about the students’ situation only after the school district failed to respond to several requests for explanations. If the school district does not respond soon, the students said they may file a lawsuit.
The legal group became involved after the Carmel Teens for Life students said school administrators took down their approved display and threw it away; students said administrators acted after another student complained that the display was offensive.
After the news media began reporting about the incident earlier this week, the school district told Fox 59 News its legal counsel had contacted Liberty Counsel to “amicably” resolve the situation, but the legal group took the story to the media “contrary” to their conversations.
According to Liberty, there is much more to the situation.
It released the following information:
On Monday, December 5, 2016, Liberty Counsel sent an initial demand letter with photo attachments, outlining the unconstitutional censorship of Carmel Teens for Life by Carmel High School administrators, which removed their pre-approved poster after a student complained. The letter requested a response by December 12, 2016. District counsel responded via phone on Tuesday, December 6, and assured Liberty Counsel that the District was taking the letter’s concerns seriously. In addition, District counsel sent a request to the superintendent to obtain the District’s side of the story, and stated that a response before December 12 was unlikely. Liberty Counsel agreed to extend the timeline for a response to at least December 23, before further action would be taken.
However, the District summoned the club’s leaders three days later on Friday, December 9, 2016, demanding that they sign an agreement that they would not seek outside legal counsel or parental input, that they would have to receive prior approval for “all communications,” and that they not use the word “abortion” in any communications, including Facebook. There was also a threat to withdraw teacher sponsorship if the teens did not sign the “Agreement.”
Liberty Counsel sent an email Monday, December 12, at 2:16 p.m., demanding a response and an explanation. However, Liberty Counsel received no response for over 24 hours. Liberty Counsel placed a phone call to District counsel on Tuesday, December 13, at 3:36 p.m., seeking an explanation. However, District counsel was unavailable. With counsel unresponsive, Liberty Counsel informed the media regarding Carmel High School’s actions at 4:55 p.m.
The Friday, December 9 attempt to strong arm the club behind-the-scenes was a game changer that should have received an immediate response from District.
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, called the school officials’ actions “shocking.”
“It is highly improper for school officials to demand students forgo their rights and not seek legal counsel or parental input,” Staver said. “Instead of supporting the Bill of Rights, the District has trampled them. Students do not shed their rights to free speech when they enter the schoolhouse gate.”
He said they are giving the school district until Monday to correct its actions.
The students said they spent more than 25 collective hours painting the poster display that symbolized the number of babies’ lives lost to abortion every day. They said the posters included 300 hearts and the message, “3,000 Lives Are Ended Each Day” followed by the word “Abortion” with letters crossed out and replaced with ones to spell “Adoption.”
“The fact that it was taken down without even having administrators talk to me about it or explain why they were going to take it down, it just happened. And then, the fact that it was thrown away in the nurse’s office was just unbelievable,” Mary Carmen, Carmel Teens For Life president, told WIBC News.
In a statement to the media, Carmel Clay Schools responded: “Our legal team is now in talks with Liberty Counsel to work out an amicable resolution – one that will ensure the protection of student rights and encourage freedom of speech. Administrators hope this will serve as a teachable moment for the entire community – especially students and staff.”