A Nevada school district has been accused of unconstitutionally discriminating against a student on campus by denying her the right to form a pro-life club at her local high school.
According to the Thomas More Society, a not-for-profit, national public interest law firm, West Career and Technical Academy is violating the right’s of sophomore Angelique Clark by denying her the ability to establish a Students for Life of America pro-life club, to educate students about abortion on the Las Vegas high school campus .
Student’s for Life is one of the nation’s most active pro-life organizations and the largest youth pro-life organization.
The group says that Clark submitted her application to start the pro-life club in December 2014, but after months of no response from the school administration, she was finally told by her adviser in February 2015 that Vice Principal Mr. Allan Yee had denied the club.
Angelique says that she submitted her application for the formal club along with faculty sponsor signature, constitution, and list of 25 interested students, which is more than double the required minimum of 10 students showing interest.
Angelique said that when the club request was initially denied, vice-principal Yee told her that abortion was “controversial.”
“Denying students their right to form a pro-life club on the grounds that it’s ‘too controversial’ and ‘not inclusive’ is an affront to the First Amendment,” said Jocelyn Floyd, Associate Counsel of Thomas More Society.
In addition to being too controversial, Angelique said that the school also told her that that a pro-life club would make pro-choice people feel left out, and that there were others “more qualified” to speak on the issue than a high school sophomore.
The letter details the specifics:
•The name was not inclusive enough—it would make people on campus with the opposite view feel left out and look bad for the school in the media.
•Regardless of the name, simply having a club that picks a side on the topic of abortion was not inclusive enough.
•Permitting a pro-life club would cause negative media coverage of the school for “supporting” the pro-life movement.
•There are “far more qualified” people who know more about abortion than a sophomore in high school.
•The topic of abortion is controversial.
•Public schools are “different” when it comes to First Amendment rights to speak and assemble
“I am not asking the administration to agree with my pro-life position,” said Clark.
“I am simply asking the school to give pro-life students at West Career and Technical Academy the opportunity to make our voices heard. We want to discuss our view on an important topic—why choosing life is important. This may be a controversial issue, but that doesn’t mean we should lose our right to free speech, ” she said.
According to the letter, addressed to Amy Dockter-Rozar, Principal West Career & Technical Academy and Clark County School District (CCSD) Superintendent Pat Skorkowsy, Angelique was later told that the school’s VP was not even the correct person to make decisions regarding club applications.
She then contacted the student council teacher who she was told was the correct decision maker but said she received no response. It was after several frustrated attempts to again meet with school administration about the matter that she finally reached out to the Thomas More Society for help.
Thomas More Society says that the school’s refusal to allow the pro-life club constitutes a violation of the students’ rights under both the federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
“Angelique’s club has been subject to an extremely extended approval process—over five months now—with the administration stone-walling and ignoring her requests to meet and attempts to explain why her club must legally be approved. This is unacceptable treatment,” the demand letter states in part.
“CCSD’s policies also give disparate treatment to different levels of clubs, based not on their curricular or non-curricular status, but instead on CCSD’s preference for the content of their speech. This creates an atmosphere where only “approved” speech is permitted and clearly violates the EAA as well as the First Amendment as content-based discrimination…There is no legally acceptable reason to classify Angelique’s club differently from any of the multitude of other non-curricular, fully recognized clubs at WCTA. Therefore, we request that you reverse your decision and promptly approve AngeliqueClark’s requestto establish, publicize, and actively run a pro-life student group at WCTA,” the letter continues.
So far, the Thomas More Society has not received a reply.
Read the full demand letter here.