PA High School Censors Students for Life Club, Gets Demand Letter

Parkland High School principal and superintendent received a demand letter from senior Elizabeth Castro and Students for Life of America, sent by the Thomas More Society. The letter charges that the school’s denial of the Students for Life group at the school, Trojans for Life, is unconstitutional and must be reversed.

“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 their Students for Life clubs,” said Students for Life of America president Kristan Hawkins. “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.”

In the fall of 2016, Elizabeth tried to go through the standard process of starting at Students for Life group at her school. The assistant principal said the group needed an advisor and one was found soon after but subsequently withdrew. In March of 2017, the Trojans for Life found a new advisor and submitted their application, which was verbally denied by the assistant principal, who deemed the group too “political” and “controversial.” On April 6th, Elizabeth sent an email to the assistant principal, where she tried to find out what could be done so that the Students for Life group could exist alongside all the other school clubs, like the Gay Straight Alliance, the Chess Club, and the Fashion Club. No response was received from the school.

“We met all the requirements of Parkland High School to start a club at the school and were denied simply because we are pro-life,” said Elizabeth Castro, senior at Parkland High School. “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 my right to start a group but denying the opportunity for others at my school to learn about the greatest human rights social injustice of our time.”

“There is absolutely no question that the law protects the right of these students to form this club at their high school,” stated Jocelyn Floyd, Thomas More Society special counsel. She noted that 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.’”

The communication to Parkland administration from the Thomas More Society states that 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 High School immediately approve the application for the Students for Life club at Parkland High School.

Letter from Thomas More Society to Parkland High School is available here.