A student at Noblesville High School is suing the school after administrators allegedly revoked their approval of a new anti-abortion club on campus.
Lawyers representing the student, who is going through ED in the lawsuit because he is a minor, say the school has an unwritten policy that gives its officials “unlimited discretion” over which clubs and school organizations are. approved.
“The defendants used this vague policy to prevent the plaintiff ED from creating a group of pro-life students,” the complaint read. Lawyers allege ED’s rights were violated and the school “denied NHS students exposure to the club’s vital mission”.
A spokesperson for Noblesville Schools told IndyStar he has had anti-abortion clubs for the past few years.
“The school administration has recently had to reorient this club – not because of the student’s beliefs or the club’s mission – but because of multiple instances of non-adherence to school protocols,” said the spokesperson. They added that special interest clubs should be created and run by students, not school staff or “other members of the community.”
“We are currently working to ensure the club’s compliance with state laws and school policy,” the spokesperson said. “Once the club meets them, we will reassess their status.”
“Paying back family planning”
The club, called Noblesville Students for Life, is linked to the national organization Students for Life, which says on its website that it “exists to recruit, train and mobilize students and young adults to end abortion.” The organization claims to have a network of over 1,250 campus groups.
The lawsuit says Noblesville high school principal Craig McCaffrey initially approved the formation of the ED club in August. A few weeks later, the student participated in a school fair at which 34 students expressed their interest in the club.
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On August 31, the student reached out to assistant principal Janae Mobley to ask for her approval for a club flyer. It included a photo of young people with signs reading “Defund Planned Parenthood” and “I am the pro-life generation”.
Mobley told ED the flyer should only contain the name of the group and information on where and when their meeting will be. “We don’t need the photos of the signage,” Mobley wrote, according to a copy of the email exchanges included in the lawsuit.
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Mobley told ED that the school’s young Republicans club, for example, did not have Republican Party “articles” on their flyers.
ED and the student’s mother met with Dean Jeremy Luna in early September to discuss the flyer. Luna reiterated what Mobley said and told ED that the flyer would not be approved because there was a photo.
Hours after meeting Luna, McCaffrey emailed ED’s mother and told her that the club’s approval status had been revoked. They pointed out the presence of the student’s mother at the meeting with Luna as another issue.
“At this point, I’m not convinced this club is a student-run club and therefore withdraw the club’s approval to meet at the school,” McCaffrey wrote. He also said the posters may not contain content “political or likely to disrupt the school environment”.
The student’s pastor intervenes
ED brought the dispute to the attention of a city councilor, according to the lawsuit. After that, the story began to circulate on Facebook groups linked to Noblesville and its schools.
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In December ED pastor Micah Beckwith wrote a column in The Times of Noblesville saying the school should let students exercise their right to free speech and allow them to start the club.
“The last thing the Noblesville School administration needed was a story like this that exposed their true Liberal bias,” Beckwith wrote.
On the same day, McCaffrey published a column in response, claiming that no discrimination had taken place. Then McCaffrey sent his column to “every NHS student and parent from their NHS email account,” according to the lawsuit.
Several rights violated, according to lawyers
Lawyers for ED say many state and federal rights have been violated by the school, the school district and various employees who are defendants in the lawsuit. These rights include the right to freedom of expression and the right of association. The defendants are also being sued under federal laws prohibiting discrimination in public schools which allow student groups to be on campus.
Lawyers seek payment of damages to the ED and attorney’s fees. They are also asking the school to allow the student club to continue.
Call IndyStar Courts Reporter Johnny Magdaleno at 317-273-3188 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @IndyStarJohnny