An Iowa high school is being accused of discriminating against a student who wanted to start a Students for Life group on the grounds that it would be too “controversial.”
This comes one week after two North Dakota schools were attacked for not recognizing student anti-abortion clubs.
Isabell Akers, a senior at Hampton-Dumont High School in Hampton, Iowa, claims she spent two years trying to create a Students for Life group at her school, only to be repeatedly blocked by school officials. According to Students for Life of America and its law firm, the Thomas More Society, which sent a letter to the school on Akers’ behalf, she is the victim of straightforward political discrimination.
In February 2013, the letter says, Akers’ attempt to form a club was rebuffed on the grounds it would be too “controversial.” The following August, Akers tried again, and after sending a follow-up inquiry every two weeks for several months she was finally allowed to create a “community club,” which was allowed to use a school meeting space but wasn’t allowed to advertise or host events like an ordinary student club.
In 2015, the letter says, Akers made another push to be recognized, arguing that a Students for Life group was legally entitled to be treated as a student club just like any other.
“She was rejected again,” the letter claims. “With the explanation that the issue is so controversial that the school cannot ‘support’ the club.”
The letter also says that school officials tried to claim the Students for Life group would be the first non-curricular club at the school, but SLA counters that this claim doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
“The pro-life students are simply asking for equal treatment,” said Jocelyn Floyd, the Thomas More Society’s associate counsel. “The school is trying to claim that its lesser treatment is justified because Isabell’s club doesn’t tie in with the school’s curriculum—but neither do most of the school’s other clubs, such as the book club, mock trial, or SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving). By law, Hampton-Dumont High School administrators must give their pro-life students the same opportunities as they give all these other school clubs.”
SLA argues that under the federal Equal Access Act as well as the First Amendment, all student requests to form non-curricular student clubs must be treated equally, regardless of political or religious content.
“There is no legally acceptable reason to classify Isabell’s club differently from any of the multitude of other non-curricular, fully recognized clubs at Hampton-Dumont High School,” the letter concludes. It demands immediate recognition.
The new letter comes just one week after SLA lodged against the public school system in Fargo, N.D. There, two high schools were accused of blocking the formation of anti-abortion clubs. Fargo Public Schools has claimed the clubs were actually stalled due to a lack of proper paperwork, although they had never cited such an alleged lack of paperwork before.
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