High School Backs Down and Allows Students to Form Pro-Life Group After Facing Lawsuit

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Oct 26, 2017   |   9:42AM   |   Harrisburg, PA

Pennsylvania students began a pro-life club at Parkland High School this fall after nearly two years of contending with the school district.

Senior Grace Schairer and recent graduate Elizabeth Castro filed a lawsuit against Parkland High School earlier this year, claiming their school administrators violated their free speech rights by refusing to allow them to begin a pro-life club.

The teens said administrators initially denied their application for a pro-life club and later agreed to approve it only if they gave up certain free speech rights.

The Morning Call reports the students and school board recently reached a settlement, and the pro-life club Trojans for Life now is functioning at Parkland High School in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

“The settlement provides that the student club … will be established as a provisional non-curricular-related student club for a period of two years,” the district said in a news release.

“After two years, if the club continues to have active members, holds regular meetings and continues to have a faculty adviser, the club will be afforded full non-provisional club status. The two-year provisional status applies to all newly created non-curricular-related student clubs.

“As with any other student club, the Parkland School District administration’s approval and recognition of the club as a provisional club is not an endorsement or promotion of the club’s mission, goals, objectives or activities.”

Schairer and Castro said they tried to begin the Students for Life club last school year, but their assistant principal told them the club was too “political” and “controversial.”

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“We were denied simply because we are pro-life,” Castro said. “As a club, our purpose is to create a life-affirming culture at our school, educate our peers on the issue of life, hold diaper drives to support pregnant and parenting students, and become a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Here’s more from the report:

The lawsuit, which was filed July 11, claimed that district officials offered to approve the club if Castro and Schairer rewrote their mission statement and agreed to drop plans to hold fundraisers at school for religious groups and a memorial service at a local abortion clinic.

They also wanted the club to restrict communications to its members and accept that certain activities, including volunteering at pregnancy resource centers, be subject to school approval.

Jocelyn Floyd, special counsel for Thomas More Society, which represented the students, said by refusing to approve the students’ club and later by putting conditions on them, the school district was not treating student clubs equally. She said the Students for Life club deserves the same rights and privileges as all other student clubs.

“There is absolutely no question that the law protects the right of these students to form this club at their high school,” Floyd said.

As a result of the lawsuit and settlement, pro-life students at Parkland High School now can join Trojans for Life. According to the school district, the pro-life club already has begun activities.