5 reasons why national law firm says Parkland should allow pro-life student club


In a demand letter sent to the Parkland School District, the Thomas More Society said the high school had illegally denied two students the right to establish a pro-life club on the basis that the club was too political and controversial.

The society, representing students Elizabeth Castro and Grace Schairer, said the district violated Elizabeth and Grace’s rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and federal Equal Access Act.

The letter made the following legal points.

•Students do not shed their First Amendment rights at the school house gate. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 509 (1969). Accordingly, a school may not permit some students to organize and express themselves on particular topics while forbidding others the same right—this creates an atmosphere where only “approved” speech is permitted and violates the First Amendment as a content-based restriction.

•. . . merely labeling a topic “controversial”—is not a ground for censoring student speech. Id. at 508. Rather, school authorities may not silence student expression unless they reasonably forecast, based on actual evidence, that the student expression would lead to either a substantial disruption of the school environment or an invasion of the rights of others. Id. at 512. Discussion of controversial topics and distribution of material relating to political issues in public high schools are not prohibited. Instead, under clear Supreme Court precedent, students have the “undoubted freedom to advocate unpopular and controversial views in schools and classrooms,” balanced only against society’s countervailing interest in teaching students the boundaries of socially appropriate behavior. Bethel Sch. Dist. No. 403 v.Fraser, 478 U.S. 675, 681 (1986).

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