A Christian middle-school student is suing his school district after a principal ordered him to remove a T-shirt bearing the message “Abortion is not healthcare” on the day of President Obama’s speech to schoolchildren.
Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court against the West Shore School District in Lewisberry, Pa., Oct. 5 on behalf of a male, Christian middle-school student identified as E.B.
The boy’s parents, identified as the Boyers, said they were concerned about the president’s speech and the national health-care debate, including reported funding of abortion within proposed legislation.
“[T]he Boyers, like many others, felt that President Obama was bypassing them and speaking directly to their children without their permission,” the complaint states. “Like many others, the Boyers struggled with whether they should send their children to school on that day. E.B. attended school and decided to voice his religious viewpoint as it relates to the issue of abortion.”
The boy wore the T-shirt to his classes at Crossroads Middle School and said he received no complaints until his fifth-period teacher ordered him to go to the principal’s office to determine whether the shirt was “appropriate.”
E.B. claims he was immediately told to remove his shirt “because it might insult somebody.”
Crossroads Middle School (photo: ADF)
ADF is challenging the following policies enforced by Crossroads Middle School and the West Shore School District:
- “‘Policy 220: Student Expression,’ prohibits speech which ‘seek[s] to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect, or point of view’ and that which contain[s] material otherwise deemed harmful to impressionable students.'”
- “‘Policy 221: Dress and Grooming’ prohibits ‘clothing which creates a hostile educational environment or evidences discriminatory bias or animus’ or displays ‘inappropriate words.'”
“These are highly unconstitutional policies that demonstrate that there’s a widespread need for schools to be educated about the First Amendment,” ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman said in a statement. “Under the current wording, a student could actually be prevented from saying that his beliefs are true. The policies also allow officials unrestricted discretion in determining what speech violates the policies. In this case, they clearly singled out this student’s pro-life speech and illegitimately censored it.”
According to the lawsuit, the school’s “draconian censorship of plaintiff’s religious and political speech, and the policies on which that censorship was based, violate First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”
The complaint states that E.B. wishes to wear T-shirts expressing his Christian faith and political views because he “desires to reach out to his peers and to offer them advice, assistance, and education” and to “discuss relevant issues facing students at school, including faith and religion, personal responsibility, sexual abstinence, keeping children in the event of pregnancy, just to name a few.”
ADF’s lawsuit argues, “Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”
“Pro-life students shouldn’t be censored for their views,” Cortman said. “It’s clearly unconstitutional for school officials to prohibit a student’s message on the grounds that someone might not like it. The school routinely allows students to wear a wide variety of messages on their shirts without any concerns, but this student has been singled out even though his shirt caused no disruption and is clearly within the bounds of constitutionally guaranteed free speech.”