Parkland Press

Monday, December 10, 2018

BREAKING NEWS: Thomas More Society cites First Amendment violation in lawsuit against the Parkland School District

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 by Debra Palmieri dpalmieri@tnonline.com in Local News

According to information received from a Chicago public relations firm on July 11, the Thomas More Society has filed a lawsuit against the Parkland School District regarding the administration’s decision on a proposed pro-life club.

Tom Ciesielka of TC Public Relations emailed The Press the following statement:

“Today, attorneys have filed a lawsuit against Parkland High School and Parkland School District on behalf of students Elizabeth Castro and Grace Schairer.

“The lawsuit claims that school administrators have violated Liz and Grace’s free speech rights by denying their application to form a Students for Life club at the school and then conditioning approval on the students giving up certain speech rights.”

The Parkland Press reported in its July 6 edition that Monica Atlas, who said one of her children just graduated from Parkland, and another one will be attending the district, asked the school board at its June 20 meeting to reconsider the request from students for the pro-life club.

During the June 20 meeting, Superintendent Richard Sniscak said the club application raised some concerns the high school administration found objectionable.

At that meeting, district Solicitor Steven Miller reported he responded on May 24 to the Thomas More Society, which is representing the students’ case.

“We have certain perimeters that have to be met by every club,” Miller said at the time, adding the administration suggested revisions for the students’ application to make it compliant with current club policy.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, with assistance from co-counsel Christopher G. Sweet of the American Catholic Lawyers Association Inc., alleges school administrators violated Castro and Schairer’s free speech rights when approval for the pro-life club was allegedly conditioned on the students giving up certain speech rights.

“Parkland’s initial denial and later attempt to impose extra requirements on Liz and Grace’s club are a far cry from the law’s requirement that schools treat student clubs equally in every respect,” said Jocelyn Floyd, special counsel for Thomas More Society.

“We hope that the court will quickly recognize the illegal and unconstitutional way the school has treated Liz and Grace and require Parkland High School to uphold their rights under both the First Amendment and Equal Access Act.”

Schairer, who is a rising senior at the high school, is quoted in the email from the public relations firm.

“The school is treating us like second-class citizens because we want to create a culture of life and be a positive influence to our peers,” Schairer said.

“We want to educate our fellow students about abortion and at the same time be a visible resource for our peers facing unplanned pregnancies.

“The school has made it clear that it will not allow us to have this type of club, so we decided to file the lawsuit.

“We are hoping for a quick resolution so Trojans for Life can hit the ground running at the start of the fall semester, along with all the other clubs at Parkland High School.”