Take a look at the four flyers below.
Two of them were displayed by an extracurricular club at Wilson High School in Tacoma, Washington, and the administration had no problem with them.
Another extracurricular club at the same school attempted to display the other two flyers, but the administration said no:
The last two were displayed by the school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA)—and the school permitted them to be displayed.
The school’s pro-life club, Wilson Students for Life, was denied the right to display the first two, because the administration said they would violate the school’s flyer and poster policy:
Acceptable posters do not offend staff or students, put others down if they have a different belief/opinion, or otherwise cause disruption. Posters that promote meetings, service projects, events, are the most common at school.
The club has also been told by administrators that they would be allowed to post flyers advertising their meetings and about issues such as fetal development, just as long as the word “abortion” wasn’t included!
In the face of this shockingly unfair treatment, Wilson Students for Life founder Bryce Asberg, a freshman at the school, stood up for his rights and those of his fellow club members and contacted the attorneys at the Thomas More Society (TMS) Pro-Life Law Center (which also represents the Pro-Life Action League).
Last week TMS sent the administration a letter [PDF] that said, quite rightly:
Schools may not subject a pro-life club to any conditions that do not apply to all other non-curricular clubs.
Boom. It’s as simple as that.
The letter also said:
Additionally, the school’s policy, which permits the person responsible for approving posters to discriminate based on whether he or she personally feels the message would “offend” or “put others down” is unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, as there is no compelling reason for the school to have such a policy. …The official responsible for this decision holds unfettered discretion to determine what is and what is not permissible—based solely on his or her own private value system. The Supreme Court has strongly spoken against such limitless discretion over speech in similar contexts.
The letter also made clear that if the administration continues its double-standard treatment of Wilson Students for Life, TMS is prepared to take the matter to court.
The school’s administration doesn’t have a constitutional leg to stand on, and there’s no way they want to deal with the headache of a lawsuit. Before long, I would guess, they’ll be issuing a “We’re really sorry” letter.
It’s always disappointing to hear about school administrators trying to bully students who want their pro-life clubs to be treated the same as other clubs, especially because they so obviously have no right to do that.
But on the other hand, it’s always deeply encouraging to hear about courageous students like Bryce Asberg and his fellow pro-life club members who are standing up for their constitutional rights and refusing to take no for an answer.
Good for them!