Administrators at a school in Tacoma, Wash., have gone nuclear over student expression, banning any and all statements of opinion or expression on posters in school hallways rather than allow a pro-life message to appear.
The school had allowed promotions for a “gay”-straight alliance, but when the local Students for Life proposed adding their own posters to the mix, promoting a pro-life position, the school censored them.
When the Thomas More Society wrote a letter pointing out the inconsistency, school officials responded by banning everything.
“The new restrictive speech policy by the Wilson High School administration teaches a harmful message to their students,” said Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel of the Thomas More Society.
“Instead of showing these young citizens the value of the robust exchange of ideas guaranteed by the First Amendment, the school officials are teaching that the government will go to great lengths to silence messages that it opposes, including the pro-life message. Is that the lesson we want these future voters to take to heart?”
The conflict began when school officials responded to a request from Wilson Students for Life, led by student Bryce Asberg, for equal treatment for his organization. Asberg wanted to organize events for students within the guidelines that apply to other groups.
But school officials withdrew the right for anyone in the school to post expressive posters.
The Thomas More Society said the principal granted Students for Life permission for a pro-life Day of Silence at the high school and to host a diaper drive for a local pregnancy center.
However, in response to WSFL’s request to hang its pro-life posters, the school decided this week to prohibit all groups from hanging posters containing any graphics, opinions, or other expressive text.
Only meeting or event information is allowed on posters.
“The effect of this policy is that the expressive nature of any student group’s speech will be limited to the audience that actually attends the meetings or events, with no ability to provoke thought or spark debate with the viewers of the poster who would likely not attend the actual event,” the Thomas More Society said.
Asberg said that while “there is equality under this new policy, no one’s voice will be heard.”
Kristan Hawkins, national president of Students for Life of America, said that while his organization is pleased that the Wilson High School administration is now allowing Wilson Students for Life’s events to proceed, “we are disappointed that the school has chosen to implement a policy that will limit every student’s ability to publicly advocate for causes they believe in, simply to avoid the pro-life message.”
“They are sending a message to all Wilson High students that if they stand up for their rights, everyone’s will be taken away,” Hawkinds said. “How can Wilson High School say it is preparing students for the ‘real world’ when they won’t allow important issues, issues that directly affect young people, to be discussed in the public square?”
Wilson officials did not respond to a request from WND for comment.
Asberg’s group wanted to put up two posters. The first reads “Since Roe v. Wade 1/3 of our generation has been aborted” and features picture of a milk carton and the word “missing” above a photo of a baby. The second poster quotes President Ronald Reagan: “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion is already born.”
But school officials said the posters might “offend.”
However, the same officials allowed flyers and posters promoting homosexual relationships to students by showing conjoined male symbols and conjoined female symbols and stating, “Love knows no limits.”