School Administrations Censor Pro-Life Clubs, Deny Students’ Constitutional Rights

By Kristan Hawkins | April 23, 2015 | 1:44pm EDT

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

High school students have so much to contend with in today’s world that can zap their passions, lower their self-esteem, and force them to back away from their convictions. So seeing young students rise up to face a hostile school administration for censorship and discrimination is quite unbelievable, and very brave. Three high school students – two in Fargo, North Dakota and one in Hampton, Iowa – right now, are publicly challenging their school administrations for deliberately censoring their Students for Life clubs and denying them their right to exist as school-based clubs because the abortion issue is “too controversial.” But their stories are only the tip of the iceberg.

Students for Life of America works with nearly 900 high school and college pro-life clubs in all 50 states, and whenever a high school student has tried to start a Students for Life club at their school, they run into some kind of opposition every single time. School administrators always use the same excuses: 1) either abortion is an issue that is “too controversial,” so they don’t want to get involved; 2) the Students for Life club is “too religious,” and it’s a violation of the separation of church and state (this is our favorite, since it’s the most ridiculous, and there is no separation of church and state in the US Constitution); and 3) that the school administration thinks that if they approve the pro-life club, then it will show that the school approves of the pro-life position.

All of these reasons are easily shut down by our great attorneys at the Thomas More Society and Alliance Defending Freedom. At Students for Life of America, we work closely with hundreds of high school students, and many will inform their school administrators of the law – that they have a legal and constitutional right to form a pro-life club – and they will be allowed to form their clubs.

But at other schools, like those of Fargo North, Davies High School and Hampton-Dumont High School, the school administrations have dug in their heels and refused to give the students their constitutional rights, treating them instead like second-class citizens who are merely allowed to meet as a club, if they are even given that courtesy (some aren’t).

Last fall, Students for Life of America (SFLA) and the Thomas More Society were involved in a case at Courtland High School in Spotsylvania, Virginia, where we sent a demand letter to the principal, who initially refused to allow senior Maddie Sutherland to start a Students for Life club. Maddie was interviewed by local and national media, and only days later, the school relented and allowed her to start the club.

Going public with pro-life beliefs is not easy, but while we have seen a trend of high school administrations not recognizing the legal right of pro-life students to have their clubs, we have also seen a trend of really young pro-lifers not afraid to speak out on behalf of those hurt by abortion – preborn babies and their mothers. Just look at the annual March for Life in Washington, DC. Everywhere you looked, there was a sea of young people. SFLA tried to do a voting registration drive a few years ago, and we were unsuccessful but only because such a huge number of participants were under 17 and couldn’t even register to vote.

These brave, young pro-lifers are the face of the pro-life movement. So often the flames of passion for the defense of the preborn are lit during high school, and we are so proud of these pro-life students who have gone public with their stories of discrimination, because they are setting a tremendous example to not only their peers in their own communities, but also to those all around the country who are facing similar situations.

Just this semester alone we have been helping students in California, Michigan, Illinois, Idaho, Washington State, Virginia, North Dakota and Iowa start their Students for Life clubs. In every corner of the nation, high school students are standing up for their free speech rights, which should be encouraging for the pro-life movement, the future of making abortion unthinkable and making sure every woman facing an unplanned crisis pregnancy has the support and resources she needs to choose life for her child is a bright one – a terrifying prospect for abortion advocates. In this way, we will end abortion in our nation.

Kristan Hawkins is president of Students for Life of America.

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