Courtland High School announced Friday that it will finally allow pro-life students to start a Students for Life club after months of resistance by the school’s principal.
Principal Larry Marks outraged pro-life students attending the public Virginia high school after he denied the club, claiming anti-abortion groups have nothing to do with school curriculum.
When the pro-life students refiled the application, Marks put off signing the paperwork and didn’t approve the group until after he was threatened with a lawsuit for violating their First Amendment rights.
The saga began in September when the pro-life group’s founder, Maddie Sutherland, filed paperwork to have the club approved by school officials. The principal denied the group in October, claiming that allowing Students for Life on campus would not “bear a clear relationship to the regular school curriculum,” in addition to saying the application was missing some components, according The Thomas More Society, a not-for-profit public interest law firm backing the students.
Sutherland resubmitted an application in late October, but Marks delayed signing the paperwork, and told Sutherland he would call her when the process was further along, according to the law firm’s news story.
When Sutherland still didn’t hear anything, the law firm sent a letter to the school demanding that the paperwork be approved by Nov. 21, telling Marks that denying the group violates the Federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment.
The group was technically approved on Thursday, but initially couldn’t begin until the 2015 school year, because Marks said the students didn’t submit the application on time. (RELATED: Feminist Professor Who Attacked Pro-Life Protesters Now Hit Civil Lawsuit)
But in a press release sent to The Daily Caller, the law firm announced on Friday that the First Amendment rights of pro-life students prevailed, as the school ruled to recognize and allow the anti-abortion group on-campus immediately.
“Just as students don’t lose their constitutional rights when they enter the schoolhouse gates, high school seniors don’t lose their First Amendment rights simply because they’re in their last year of school,” Jocelyn Floyd, Thomas More Society associate counsel, said in the press release. “While we’re saddened that it took legal intervention to get the school to act, we’re thrilled that the school has now explicitly acknowledged their commitment to free speech ideals and protected Maddie and her fellow seniors’ core First Amendment rights to speak about life on campus at Courtland High School.”
Sutherland is overjoyed. “I am so excited that the school granted my request to start the pro-life club immediately,” Sutherland said. “Thanks to Students for Life of America and the attorneys at the Thomas More Society, I will be able to educate my peers on alternatives to abortion, attend the March for Life rally in Washington, DC, and support expectant mothers through a local pregnancy resource center. I am grateful to principal Mr. Larry Marks and the school board for approving the pro-life club and can’t wait to get started with my fellow pro-lifers at Courtland.”