From the SFLA Blog

SFLA Freshman Student Leader Files Suit against Noblesville High School, District and School Leadership Alleging Violations of Free Speech Rights & Intimidation 

Image
Kristi Hamrick - 22 Dec 2021
SFLA Freshman Student Leader Files Suit against Noblesville High School, District and School Leadership Alleging Violations of Free Speech Rights & Intimidation 

 

“Free speech rights that can’t be used don’t exist,” said SFLA’s Kristan Hawkins. “Once again, the Pro-Life Generation will have to take our case to court as another school abuses their authority by trying to slow walk a pro-life club to the exit.” 

NOBLESVILLE & INDIANAPOLIS, IN (12-22-2021) – Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins announced that a lawsuit has been filed by Charitable Allies, Inc., of Indianapolis, on behalf of a student against the Noblesville School District and high school along with named school leaders, including: Supt. Beth Niedermeyer, Craig McCaffrey, Janae Mobley, Daniel Swafford, Jeremy Luna, Alexandra Snider Pasko, Alison Rootes, Allison Schwingendorf-Haley, Byron Simpson, Elizabeth Kizer, Emily Patterson-Jackson, Grace Tuesca, and Stephanie Eads. The student, a minor named by initials E.D. in the suit, started in July before the school year to jump through all the hoops for club membership named by school officials, according to the complaint, but as the first semester nears an end, the impact of the unwritten, unexplained criteria for participation in the life of the school has been used to stave off the nascent pro-life, student-sponsored, club.

The suit alleges that the school leadership had “unbridled discretion (that) allows them to create a culture that permits discrimination based on content and viewpoint.” Following the denial for club status and school participation over months of attempts to engage, the complaint also alleges that teachers for Noblesville School District then abused their positions by posting defamatory statements on social media about the student by name, including referring to the student as “bigoted” and “misogynistic.”

Talking about her freshman year, E.D. said: “I wanted to start this club to inspire like-minded students to advocate for our most vulnerable and point students to resources designed to uplift them in their time of need. I knew some people would disagree with me, but I never expected to be attacked online—especially by my teachers.”

“The degree to which adults in authority attempted to intimidate a high school freshman is astonishing,” said Hawkins. “Noblesville High School officials went all out to ensure that a minor girl could not speak in their presence about her love for mothers and their children, born and preborn, and that she would keep quiet at school. Parents in Noblesville must surely be concerned about school officials turning using media to attack a pro-life girl. Is this a pattern of behavior for Noblesville school officials, using the press to attack community members who share a different point of view? Viewpoint discrimination is unconstitutional in Indiana and nationwide.”

“The school district cannot prohibit a student group simply because school administration does not agree with its policy position on important social issues,” said Zac Kester, CEO & Managing Attorney of Charitable Allies. “Public schools should be eager to support an inclusive environment that showcases a variety of viewpoints. Students shouldn’t have to be afraid of teachers and administrators bullying them for their beliefs.”

During the process of attempting to get approval for her club, E.D. showed school officials a flyer that “included a photo of young students in front of the United States Supreme Court Building in Washington D.C. holding signs that read, ‘We are the pro-life generation’ and ‘Defund Planned Parenthood.’” Both signs are part of the Students for Life of America messaging at pro-life events nationwide. E.D. reported that after seeing those images, school officials became unresponsive and unavailable as she tried to get the club started.

Of note, clubs not related directly to educational goals are included at Noblesville High School, such as Young Democrats, Police Explorers, Black Student Union, Gender and Sexual Alliance, Conservation club, a “Comedy Sports Club” as well as a “Dungeons and Dragons” group.

Sadly, viewpoint discrimination is common across the country, as Hawkins wrote in a Wall Street Journal op- ed piece. Typical opposition to free speech includes:

  • The vandalization and outright theft of displays and signs.
  • A virtual poll tax on speech often in the form of security fees not charged to all who require it.
  • A Heckler’s Veto, in which schools cancel or move events when extremist groups or a disgruntled student oppose a speaker.
  • A slow walk to nowhere when a pattern of delays for approval of events or clubs creates a virtual veto of student speech.
  • A not-even-separate-but-equal accommodation as schools refuse similar support for pro-life students as given to others.
  • A religious gag rule in which schools may allow students to speak as long as they stay silent about faith.
  •  A required “Trigger Warning” in which the school signals through signs posted in the areas where pro-life speech is taking place that such speech is controversial and offensive, to be possibly avoided or protested.
  • A power of the purse veto involving biased use of student fees.
  • A threat of violence veto

 

The matter has been filed in the United States District Court Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. Click here for a link to the case. 

For interviews, contact Kristi Hamrick at [email protected]

–30–

Students for Life Action (SFLAction), a 501c4, along with its sister organization, Students for Life of America (SFLA),a 501c3, make up the nation’s largest, pro-life, youth organization as well as operating a political and policy operation engaging people of all ages. Together they work to end abortion, the human rights issue of our day, and provide political, legal, and community support for women and their children, born and preborn. Headquartered in Fredericksburg, VA, SFLA has more than 1,250groups on middle, high school, college, university, medical and law school campuses in all 50 states. SFLA creates strategy, policy and programming that connects those most targeted for abortion with people ready to help and builds a framework for political engagement on their behalf. SFLA/SFLAction has more conversations with those most targeted by the abortion industry every day, week, and year than any other pro-life outreach in the world. Every week, Students for Life entities reach more than 2 million people across social media platforms to have nearly 200,000 digital conversations. Under the leadership of SFLA/SFLAction President Kristan Hawkins, who was recruited to build the organization, SFLA has grown over the last 15 years into a $15 million organization preparing for a Post-Roe America.

Charitable Allies is a non-profit legal aid law firm based in Indianapolis that provides affordable legal services and education to nonprofit organizations nationwide.  

Zac Kester can be reached at [email protected]

 

Share this post