Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
A district in Missouri has decided to allow images of zombies on its school walls but not posters promoting the Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity, which focuses on the abortions inflicted on American girls and women daily.
In response, a lawsuit that has been filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, southern division, by the Alliance Defense Fund that alleges violations of the First and 14th Amendments as well as the Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The claim in federal court, brought on behalf of J.A., “by and through her next friend, Jodie Anderson,” pinpoints the district’s “censorship of plaintiff’s religious, pro-life flyers and plaintiff’s public announcement over the intercom inviting students to participate in the annual Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity.”
“The district previously has allowed the posting of materials, including: posters for the Day of Silence in support of students who feel bullies based upon their sexual orientation, posters for a memorial event for a student who died the previous year, drawings of zombies made by students, posters for other student events and activities, political posters, anti-drug posters, breast cancer awareness posters, youth safety posters, advertisements for community events such as a ‘Hard-Core Sports Trivia’ competition.”
Similarly, students routinely are allowed to make announcements concerning events of interest to students.
However, the flyers and announcements promoting the Pro-Life Day have been censored.
In fact, the posters were torn down by school officials, ADF officials said.
“Pro-life students have a positive and valuable message that school officials should welcome, not censor,” said Jeremy Tedesco, legal counsel for ADF. “Public schools are more likely to succeed when they allow for the free exchange of ideas.”
While the district previously had allowed the event’s promotion, last October officials tore down posters because they were deemed “offensive.”
“What is offensive is the double-standard here,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Matt Sharp. “Public school officials cannot pick and choose what messages they are going to allow based on which viewpoints they prefer. ADF has litigated numerous cases similar to this one, and the law and the Constitution are clearly on our side here as well.”
According to the legal action, the district’s Policy 2170 states: “The district recognizes that student expression regarding a variety of topics may be beneficial to the district’s educational mission. Discussion and debate regarding serious issues can engender tolerance for diverse viewpoints.”
It specifically allows students to distribute, “at reasonable times and places, unofficial written materials, petitions, buttons, badges and other insignia.” It bans information that is not “consistent with the district’s educational mission
One of the 2010 posters for the event:
“The district’s censorship of plaintiff’s religious, pro-life speech, and the policies on which that censorship was based, violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and the Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” the complaint contends.
The student had promoted the event in 2010 and obtained permission from Principal Jerry Braschler to do it again last year. After putting up posters, however, the student found that a teacher was taking them down.
Some of the zombie images allowed by the school:
“J.A. was informed by a teacher that Supt. Dawna Burrow had ordered all of the posters to be taken down and thrown away,” and Burrow explained to the student that the event was “not part of the school curriculum.”
The student’s request for help from the school board and state education agency produced nothing.
Even after the posters were destroyed, the school allowed “posters from unidentified students where students took photographs of themselves and edited them on the computer to transform themselves into zombie-like creatures” with “blood pouring from their eyes [and] the faces where partially or wholly replaced with human skulls.”
Also displayed were promotions for a memorial service, the teenage Republicans, safe driving and trivia competitions.
“The government may not discrimination against speech based on its viewpoint, regardless of the forum,” the lawsuit alleges.
The action seeks a change in policy as well as costs.