Parkland Press

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Pro-life group puts Parkland School District on notice regarding student club

Thursday, May 25, 2017 by DEBRA PALMIERI dpalmieri@tnonline.com in Local News

According to information provided by the Thomas More Society, Chicago, Ill., Parkland High School Superintendent Richard Sniscak was sent a demand letter May 17 from attorneys at that organization.

The letter charges the high school’s denial of a request by some students to form a pro-life student group is unconstitutional and must be reversed.

According to the email from the public relations firm representing the Thomas More Society, last fall, two students tried to start a Students for Life group at Parkland.

The school’s assistant principal reportedly told the two they needed an advisor and they would also need to submit a club proposal.

The girls found an advisor and submitted their proposal in March 2017.

The email states the application was denied, verbally, by the assistant principal, who allegedly said the group was too “political” and “controversial.”

Junior Grace Schairer, one of the club applicants, sent an email to the assistant principal on April 6, requesting to know what steps could be taken to overcome the objections to the student pro-life group.

The school permits other clubs, including the Gay Straight Alliance, the Political Science Club and the Fashion Club.

The email states Schairer received no response.

Senior Elizabeth Castro commented on the situation.

“We met all of Parkland High School’s requirements for beginning a club at the school,” Castro is quoted in the email. “We were denied simply because we are pro-life.

“As a club, our purpose is to create a life-affirming culture at our school, educate our peers on the issue of life, hold diaper drives to support pregnant and parenting students, and become a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

“The school is not only denying our right to start a group but also denying the opportunity for others at our school to learn about the greatest human rights social injustice of our time.”

Jocelyn Floyd, Thomas More Society special counsel, commented on the lack of response from Parkland’s administration.

“There is absolutely no question that the law protects the right of these students to form this club at their high school,” Floyd stated.

She noted the response from Parkland High School administration reflects a common misconception.

“However,” she added, “this administration’s denial of a pro-life club is especially surprising, because this district’s policy expressly allows students to form clubs with ‘any lawful objective.’”

Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins also commented on the issue.

“The high school students we work with are passionate defenders of life and, oftentimes, their schools put up unnecessary and unconstitutional obstacles when they try to start Students for Life clubs,” Hawkins said. “The school’s baseless claim that the club would be too ‘controversial’ and ‘political’ is a common excuse we hear — and it’s always infringing on the First Amendment rights of pro-life students, treating them as second-class citizens because they happen to want to educate their peers on the horrors of abortion and help pregnant and parenting students at their school.”

The communication to Parkland administration from the Thomas More Society states the denial of the pro-life club violates the First Amendment, the Federal Equal Access Act, and Parkland School District’s own policies.

The letter demands that Parkland’s administration immediately approve the application for the Students for Life club at the high school.

According to the email sent to The Press, the Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty.

Headquartered in Chicago and Omaha, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts up to the United States Supreme Court.

Students for Life of America is dedicated to ending abortion by educating students about the issues of abortion, euthanasia and infanticide; identifying pro-life student leaders; equipping student pro-lifers with the training, skills and resources to be effective and successful; and promoting student activity to other local, college and national organizations.

Director of Community Relations and Development for the Parkland School District Nicole McGalla issued the following statement on behalf of the district: “We received the letter on May 17, and the district is reviewing this matter and will respond in due course.”