Monday, April 13, 2015

Some high schoolers in Fargo, North Dakota are waiting to see if a pro-life club will be treated equally with other school clubs.

Are pro-life student clubs treated the same as other student organizations? In Fargo, ND, the answer apparently is “no.” The district’s superintendent has yet to respond to a demand from Students for Life and its legal representative, the Thomas More Society, on behalf of two students.
Brigid O'Keefe, North High Sophomore
Brigid O’Keefe of Fargo North High School, Katie McPherson of Davies High School, who were denied permission to start pro-life clubs at their respective schools.  In a letter to the district, Students for Life charges that the district has unconstitutionally discriminated against pro-life students by denying the students’ right to form Students for Life groups at their schools.

“Denying high school students the opportunity to start a club because it promotes the pro-life message is outright discrimination,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, and Tuesday’s guest on Faith On Trial.

“Since administrators have refused to allow students at Fargo North or Davies to start their Students for Life clubs and educate their peers on the tragedy of abortion, Brigid, Katie, and their pro-life classmates had to seek assistance from Students for Life of America and our
Students for Life's Kristan Hawkins
attorneys at Thomas More Society to get their clubs off the ground.”

At Davies High School, sophomore Katie McPherson has been trying to start a Students for Life club since September 2014. For months, the school administration would not approve the application or assign the club a room for meetings.

At Fargo North, sophomore Brigid O’Keefe found an advisor and submitted her application to start a Students for Life club in February 2015. School administrators put Brigid and other prospective club members through extensive questioning, including questions about their religious affiliations, before denying the club.  After the students asked for reconsideration, the administrators turned the matter over to the District.

“I started a book club last fall and had no problem getting approved. But when my friends and I applied to start a Students for Life club, the administrators wouldn’t approve our application as a student organization,” said Brigid O’Keefe. “We want to share with our peers the pro-life message of respect for all people at any stage, and make a positive impact on our community. But because the school won’t allow us to be an official school club, we can’t.”

The District decided to classify the pro-life clubs as “outside agencies” rather than approving them as official school clubs, meaning that the pro-life clubs cannot use the school name in their clubs’ names, cannot host events, and cannot put up posters at school to advertise or spread their message.

“Public schools are required by law to treat all student groups equally,” said Jocelyn Floyd, Associate Counsel of Thomas More Society.  “However, the School District and administrators at Fargo North and Davies High Schools are treating pro-life students as second class citizens, forcing them to abide by a policy that was designed to protect students from exploitation by businesses, not to censor the students’ own free speech.”

Join Deacon Mike Manno and Gina Noll Tuesday morning at 9 (CDT) for a lively discussion of this and other legal matters with Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins.

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