ALLENTOWN, Pa. (CBS)—A lawsuit has been filed against a Pennsylvania school claiming that school administrators violated the rights of students attempting to form a Pro-Life club.
The Thomas More Society, a pro-life law firm based in Chicago, filed the lawsuit Tuesday against the Parkland High School and Parkland School District in Allentown, PA.
Students Elizabeth Castro and Grace Schairer first approached the Parkland administration about starting “Trojans for Life” in September of 2016.
After numerous meetings and submitting a formal club proposal, their club was denied in March 2016 for being too political and controversial, the lawsuit alleges.
Thomas More Society says they sent a demand letter to the school and the school district, challenging the administrators’ denial of the club as a violation of the federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Society asked for the school to approve the club, giving it full access to the school’s established expressive forum, equal to all other clubs.
In response, the district said it would approve the club, but only if Elizabeth and Grace changed the club’s mission, abandoned certain activities, and gave up their rights to fundraise.
“These are demands that no other clubs are required to meet,” said Thomas More Society.
“Parkland’s initial denial and later attempt to impose extra requirements on Liz and Grace’s club are a far cry from the law’s requirement that schools treat student clubs equally in every respect,” said Jocelyn Floyd, special counsel for Thomas More Society. “We hope that the court will quickly recognize the illegal and unconstitutional way the school has treated Liz and Grace and require Parkland High School to uphold their rights under both the First Amendment and Equal Access Act.”
Liz Castro spoke about trying to form the club in an interview with TV station WFMZ earlier this year.
“Very personal in my heart. My mom told me when she was pregnant with my younger brother she was pushed to have an abortion because she had bladder stones,” said Castro.
But her mom refused to get an abortion. Now Castro is outspoken on the issue, so much so, she wanted to start a school club.
“My club would be a pro-life club at Parkland High School,” she said.
In a previous email to WFMZ, a spokesperson for the school district said the club was not rejected for being too political or controversial, but because the proposal was not in compliance with rules that all clubs must follow.
“The school is treating us like second-class citizens because we want to create a culture of life and be a positive influence to our peers,” said Grace Schairer, who will be a senior this coming fall at Parkland High School. “We want to educate our fellow students about abortion and at the same time be a visible resource for our peers facing unplanned pregnancies. The school has made it clear that it will not allow us to have this type of club, so we decided to file the lawsuit. We are hoping for a quick resolution so Trojans for Life can hit the ground running at the start of the fall semester, along with all the other clubs at Parkland High School.”
The Thomas More Society’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, asks for the court to order Parkland School District to approve Trojans for Life with the rights and privileges granted to all other clubs.
CBS Philly has reached out to the Parkland School District for comment but have not heard back.