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A Florida student is fighting for her legal right to begin a pro-life club at her high school this week.
Gabrielle Gabbard applied to start a pro-life club, Sharks 4 Life, in August at Gulf Coast High School, but was refused, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, the pro-life legal group that is representing her. The club would be affiliated with Students for Life of America, which has more than 1,200 student clubs across the country.
On Thursday, ADF sent a letter to the Florida school explaining that Gabbard has a right to form the student organization under the federal Equal Access Act.
According to ADF, the school claimed Gabbard’s club would be too “political” and “controversial” — even though it recognizes the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Animal Rights Club, the Gay Straight Alliance, and Collier Students for Change, which is affiliated with the Florida Democratic Party, as school clubs.
“The First Amendment doesn’t permit a public school to play favorites when approving student organizations. Gulf Coast High School must recognize Sharks 4 Life, and Collier County Public Schools needs to update its policies so that this doesn’t happen again,” said ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross.
According to the legal group, Assistant Principal Catherine Crawford-Brown refused to recognize the club during a meeting with Gabbard and one of her faculty advisors. They said Crawford-Brown also threatened to fire the advisor unless she withdrew her offer to be the club advisor.
“Crawford-Brown made these remarks even though she knew that the club needed a faculty advisor to be approved. Because of these remarks, both of the faculty advisors promptly withdrew as faculty advisors for the club,” according to ADF.
Their letter asks the school district to revise its policy by Nov. 21 to specify that its schools will consider requests for new student clubs in a timely manner and will not discriminate against the club because of its religion, politics, philosophy or other beliefs.
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Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins said students increasingly are facing hostility because of their pro-life position.
“Across the country, we are seeing incredible opposition to the pro-life speech of our student leaders and volunteers as they speak for the defenseless and educate their fellow students on abortion,” Hawkins said. “But the law and the Constitution are clear on the matter: Public schools cannot single out pro-life groups for exclusion from recognition. Officials in Collier County need to do the right thing and do it quickly.”
LifeNews Note: File photo.