A religious nonprofit organization is suing Parkland School District in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, after Parkland High School deemed a pro-life student club too controversial and subsequently refused to approve its charter.
The national public interest law firm Thomas More Society filed a lawsuit against the school district, high school, and three administrators Tuesday after Elizabeth Castro and Grace Schairer submitted their proposal to the school in March and were rejected. The suit alleges that the school violated the federal Equal Access Act and First Amendment by failing to approve the club’s constitution, according to Lehigh Valley Live.
The students said their goal was “to educate their fellow students on the issue of abortion and to offer hope and resources to help in the cases of crisis pregnancies.” The Thomas More Society sent a letter to the school on May 17 demanding that the “Trojans for Life” club be approved and said they would seek monetary damages and attorney fees if the request was not honored, according to U.S. News.
The school called the Thomas More Society the next day, and said it would offer approval only if the students rewrote their mission statement, didn’t fundraise for religious entities, abandoned off-site pursuits, restricted their endeavors and communications to club members instead of school peers, and sought approval from the school for activities like “volunteering at pregnancy resource centers.”
“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,” Floyd added.
Other potentially political clubs operate on the school’s campus, like the Gay Straight Alliance and Political Science Club.
“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 in a statement Tuesday.
C. Steven Miller, counsel for the school district, said he was surprised by the suit and didn’t want to litigate specific allegations in the press.
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