Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys sent a letter Tuesday on behalf of Fresno State Students for Life and its president, Bernadette Tasy, to Fresno State University requesting the school disclose the final results of a disciplinary proceeding after a student vandal destroyed fliers that Tasy and her organization had paid to print—ripping some of the fliers right out of the pro-life students’ hands.
The incident was not the first time Tasy or Fresno State Students for Life encountered hostility towards their views at the university. Last year, in a separate incident captured on video, a professor recruited students to deface life-affirming messages that Students for Life members had chalked on campus sidewalks. ADF attorneys won a settlement in that case that resulted in the professor having to undergo First Amendment training and pay nearly $28,000.
“Students don’t hand in their First Amendment freedoms when they walk on campus,” said ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham. “Fresno State has rightly acknowledged the constitutionally protected freedoms of Fresno State Students for Life in the past, and we are hopeful the university will be similarly respectful here. Students deserve to know if and how their administrators choose to deal with acts of vandalism that target them and their point of view.”
In April, Tasy and two other members of Fresno State Students for Life were posting approved fliers on general posting bulletin boards when they encountered another student who vandalized them—ripping fliers off walls and out of pro-life students’ hands. Tasy reported the vandalism to campus authorities. After campus police investigated, she asked what disciplinary action had been taken against the student vandal; however, the Office of Student Conduct declined to provide the information Tasy requested, claiming that the disciplinary records were confidential.
ADF attorneys show in their letter that, to the extent Fresno State’s Office of Student Conduct relied on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act in making their statement, its officials are mistaken. The letter explains that FERPA clearly allows the university to disclose details about disciplinary action to a “victim of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence,” a term that includes a victim of vandalism or destruction of property. Even if Fresno State exonerated the student, the university is permitted to share this information with Tasy.
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“Our students have already shown great courage and cheerful conviction in the face of hostility at Fresno State,” said Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins. “Across the country, we are seeing incredible opposition to the pro-life speech of our student leaders and volunteers as they speak for the defenseless, reach out to pregnant women, and educate on the violence of abortion. But our message of hope continues to help, heal, and transform, even in the face of vandalism.”
Students for Life of America is the nation’s largest pro-life youth organization and currently serves more than 1,200 groups in colleges, high schools, and medical schools across the United States. Attorney Michael L. Renberg of the Fresno law firm Parichan, Renberg & Crossman is serving as local counsel in the matter on behalf of Fresno State Students for Life and its student officers.