Washington high school censors pro-life group, promotes gay group

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On the heels of the University of Alabama’s apology for censoring its Students for Life group, another Students for Life chapter is calling on its school to stop censoring its activities.

On Wednesday, Students for Life of America revealed that its affiliate at Wilson High School in Tacoma, Washington sought legal help after the school denied the group permission to hang pro-life posters and even hold certain activities during school hours while the school’s Gay Straight Alliance was allowed to promote its club in similar fashions.

In a letter to school officials on behalf of the Wilson Students for Life, public interest law firm the Thomas More Society laid out some of the contradictions and asserted that the group’s rights have been violated.

Last fall the group tried to post two messages. The first read: “Since Roe v. Wade 1/3 of our generation has been aborted” with an image of a milk carton with a baby on it. The second poster quoted Ronald Reagan, reading, “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion is already born.”

According to the letter, the WSFL was told their posters would violate the Wilson High School’s poster policy:

Acceptable posters do not offend staff or students, put others down if they have a different belief or opinion, or otherwise cause disruption. Posters that promote meetings, service projects, events, are the most common at school.

And while the WSFL was denied that ability to post their messages, other groups, including the Wilson Gay Straight Alliance, were allowed to hang flyers promoting gay rights with math equations showing different types of relationships equaling love (or a heart) and the caption “Love Knows no Limits.”

Further, while the WSFL were barred from conducting activities like holding a day of silence, holding a candlelight vigil the GSA has been allowed to hold a day of silence.

“Wilson High School’s refusal to treat Wilson Students for Life equally to all other groups constitutes a violation of [Wilson Students for Life president and founder Bryce] Asberg and his fellow club members’ rights under both the federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the letter, dated Feb. 11, 2014 reads.

Asberg, a Wilson freshman, told The Daily Caller that he started the group last year and that the school has not quite known what to do with the group’s message — for example he said, the group has been allowed to post flyers about where they are meeting and about fetal development so long as the word “abortion” was not on the materials.

“I think it’s a bit unfair, but at the same time I kind of understand the administration is in an awkward position of not knowing what to do with this sort of a club, but that doesn’t mean our rights can just be passed over,” he said.

Thomas More Society senior counsel Peter Breen explained to TheDC that the hope is to resolve the matter without further legal action; however, the firm is prepared to take such action if necessary.

“Nothing that this group has sought to do is unreasonable and everything that they are seeking to do is within the general type of activity that has been allowed to other groups on this high school campus,” he said.

The school has until Feb. 25 to respond to the letter.

Update 10:12PM: Assistance principle Shane Sliva responded to TheDC after publication with more information about the school’s poster policy.

“The Tacoma School District allows all Associated Student Body (ASB) recognized student groups to submit posters for display at its schools consistent with ASB and school rules and the First Amendment of the US Constitution, as it has been interpreted to apply in the public school setting,” he wrote in an email. “Consistent with the rulings of the US Supreme Court, our schools are not required to allow student groups to engage in expressive activities that: (1) constitute true threats; (2) are or could cause a material and substantial disruption of the educational environment or impinge on the rights of others; (3) are  vulgar, lewd, obscene or plainly offensive; or (4) promote the use of illegal drugs.  Our schools are also allowed to control the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities, so long as such actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.  Any ASB recognized student group at Wilson High School can submit posters for display consistent with the above.”

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