A charter school in Minnesota has told a parent that administrators claim the right to censor whatever they want of a student’s speech outside of class time, including a 6th-grader’s expression of her deeply held pro-life views.
A lawsuit over the school’s alleged violations of the student’s constitutional rights.
Brian Bloomfield, executive director of the Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul told a parent, “The school has a right to censor students without violating their free speech.”
He cited the Tinker and Hazelwood opinions from the U.S. Supreme Court as his support. He also cited “wikipedia” in writing, “In short, public schools have every right to prohibit student speech.”
However, the lawsuit brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom said that’s exactly backwards.
“Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “The law on this is extremely clear: free speech cannot be censored simply because it expresses a certain viewpoint that administrators don’t favor. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.”
The ADF explained that the student, a minor identified as A.Z., and her friends had been discussing the issue of abortion after the topic of childbirth was raised in class. They decided to hand out pro-life fliers at lunchtime to friends who wanted information.
One statement read: “Save the baby humans. Stop abortion.”
According to the ADF, “A few days later, they were called into the school director’s office and told that some students find pro-life fliers offensive and that they were no longer allowed to pass them out during or after school hours, even if students requested them. School policy also requires students to obtain ‘prior approval from an administrator’ before engaging in free speech.”
Bloomfield told the student’s parents that a pro-life message “was inconsistent” with the school’s educational mission and that only students in the “School of Rhetoric” could participate in “political activism.”
However, that policy “leaves censorship of student speech to the whim of academy officials” and exhibits “hostility toward religious expression,” the ADF alleges.
Further, the school has allowed other students to distribute other materials during non-instructional time.
“Students should not need a permission slip every time they wish to express their views on current events of the day,” said Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “We hope that Nova Classical Academy will revise its policy so that its students can exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms.”
Stanley Zahorsky, one of more than 2,200 allied attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, is serving as local counsel in the case, A.Z. v. Nova Classical Academy, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.
Bloomfield did not respond to a WND request for comment.
But according to the court filing, the case is about violations of the First and 14th Amendments.
The student, the filing explains, is a Christian who “desires to share her religious, pro-life views with her schoolmates.”
The school already allows students to distribute brochures and information materials during non-instructional time, the brief explains. The subject of abortion arose because of biology lessons about pregnancy, as well as a presentation on drugs, alcohol and date rape the academy required.
A.Z. and her friends brought some materials, and gave them out to friends at lunchtime, without causing disruptions, it continues.
The “denial of A.Z.’s religious, pro-life materials while permitting secular posters, flyers, and materials from other students constitutes viewpoint discrimination which is unconstitutional in any type of forum,” the complaint says. “No compelling state interest exists to justify the censorship of A.Z.’s religious, pro-life expression.”