Monday, July 15, 2013

School concedes pro-life speech cannot be censored

A Minnesota public school has revised its literature distribution policy after Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a 6th-grade student. Nova Classical Academy prohibited the student from distributing pro-life fliers to her classmates during non-instructional time but now agrees that pro-life expression must be allowed.

“Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas,” said Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students, regardless of their religious or political beliefs. The law on that point is extremely clear: free speech cannot be censored simply because it expresses a certain viewpoint that administrators don’t favor.”

In late February, the 6th-grade student and her friends peacefully handed out pro-life fliers at lunchtime to friends and classmates interested in the topic. One of the fliers read, “Save the baby humans. Stop abortion.”

A few days later, they were called into the school director’s office and told that some students find pro-life fliers offensive and that they were no longer allowed to pass them out during or after school hours, even if students requested them.

In an e-mail to the student’s parents, the school’s executive director claimed that the content of the fliers was inconsistent with the school’s educational mission and that “such political activism is limited to students in the School of Rhetoric [the high school] only.”

“The school has a right to censor students without violating their free speech,” the executive director wrote. “In short, public schools have every right to prohibit student speech.”

As a result of the settlement and the enactment of the new policy, students are permitted to distribute literature as the 6th-grade student and her friends originally sought to do.

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