“Too controversial.” That was the excuse given by West Career and Technical Academy, a public school in Las Vegas, for denying student Angelique Clark’s application to form a Pro-Life club on campus. Fortunately, the law disregards school administrators’ opinions of controversial substance in guaranteeing the free-speech rights of students as outlined in the Equal Access Act of 1984. Unfortunately, once apprised by legal experts at the Thomas More Society that they were breaking the law in denying Angelique’s petition, school administrators persisted in their refusal to approve the application. But the Thomas More Society persisted on behalf of Angelique’s club, and the school has now approved the Pro-Life group.
Jocelyn Floyd, who frequently works on similar cases for Students for Life of America, represented Angelique and the 25 Pro-Life students who had already signed up to participate in the club before Angelique filed her petition. Floyd sent a demand letter to the school outlining the area of law which the school was violating in refusing to approve Angelique’s application, but the school remained mum until a lawsuit was filed. Floyd says this is the first time a school has ever not responded to a demand letter, which simply clarifies the law, which her group has sent on behalf of Pro-Life students.
The silence of West Career and Technical Academy, Floyd explains, is what catalyzed the lawsuit. By refusing to respond to or approve Angelique’s club, West Career and Technical Academy closed all avenues for cooperation barring a lawsuit. Angelique was unprepared for the illegal resistance she faced in seeking to start her Pro-Life club, as the Thomas More Society reports:
“When I first applied to form a pro-life club, I never imagined I would have to sue my school to be able to exercise my free speech rights,” said Angelique Clark, rising junior at West Career and Technical Academy. “My fellow pro-life students and I simply want to make our voices heard and to educate other students on a topic that’s important to us—choosing life. We hope for a quick resolution that allows us to get the WCTA Pro-Life Club up and running as soon as possible.”
Floyd explains that trampling First Amendment rights to free speech causes “irreparable harm” – in other words, the damage inflicted cannot be redressed by words or money, but only by restoring Angelique’s free speech rights in approving the club. The good news is that the students of West Career and Technical Academy are no longer inhibited from exercising their right to be “controversial.”
Texas Right to Life provides resources and support to a large network of Pro-Life campus groups, both public and private, here in Texas through the Dr. Joseph Graham Fellowship for College Pro-Life Leaders. Through the program, Texas Right to Life is currently mentoring 70 college students on 25 campuses across Texas.