School administrators did not permit a pro-life extracurricular group to form on its grounds, two Pennsylvania high school students claim.
Parkland High School students Elizabeth Castro, a senior, and Grace Schairer, a junior, co-founded a proposed group called “Trojans for Life” — a pro-life organization Students for Life group — at their school in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
“We were denied because we are pro-life.”
“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,” Castro said in a statement.
The girls claim school administrators denied their proposal due to the “political” and “controversial” nature of the group.
On Wednesday, May 17, attorneys with the law firm Thomas More Society, which is representing the girls, sent a demand letter for school district officials to approve the pro-life club.
Castro and Schairer submitted a proposal for the club on March 17, 2017, to Jude Sandt, the school’s assistant principal.
The students originally met with Sandt in September 2016 to ask how to form a new club. Sandt told them (as is usual procedure for high school clubs) that they needed an adviser for their group — so the girls found a teacher to do the job.
“The law protects the right of these students to form this club at their high school.”
“They then met with [Sandt] in November, where he told them that their adviser had withdrawn after talking with him and that they also needed to submit a proposal for the club,” the legal demand letter to school administrators says. “Elizabeth and Grace found a new teacher adviser and submitted their club proposal to Mr. Sandt on March 17, 2017. On March 29, in a meeting to discuss the proposal, Mr. Sandt denied the club proposal with the justification that the club would be too ‘political’ and ‘controversial.'”
The Thomas More Society sent the demand letter to Richard T. Sniscak, the school district superintendent, as well as to Parkland High School Principal James E. Moniz II and Sandt.
“The school permits other clubs, including the Gay Straight Alliance, the Political Science Club, and the Fashion Club,” according to a press release from the Thomas More Society. The students say they emailed Sandt on April 6, inquiring how to fix the club proposal and get approved; they say they’ve received no response back as of yet.
“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, who wrote the demand letter.
A staff member at the school district confirmed the district received the demand letter. “We received the letter this morning, May 17th, and the district is reviewing this matter and will respond in due course,” Nicole Mehta McGalla, the school district’s community relations and development director, said in an email to LifeZette.
As the school’s policies state in its manual, “Parkland School District shall provide students the right to form organizations, with the approval of the principal.”
“The district shall provide secondary students the opportunity for noncurricular related student groups to meet on the school premises during noninstructional time for the purpose of conducting a meeting within the limited open forum on the basis of religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings,” according to the guidelines for Policy 122.
The students hint at other motives for the rejection of their proposal. “We met all of Parkland High School’s requirements for beginning a club at the school. We were denied simply because we are pro-life,” Castro said in a statement.
“The school is not only denying our right to start a group but also denying the opportunity for others at our school to learn about the greatest human rights social injustice of our time,” Castro added.