Student’s pro-life poster returns to walls of ND school

Clarity on First Amendment as result of Alliance Defending Freedom letter prompts quick change
Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Attorney sound bites:  Jon Scruggs #1  |  Jon Scruggs #2

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. — One day after receiving a letter from Alliance Defending Freedom, a North Dakota high school and its district agreed to allow a student’s pro-life poster that was part of a class assignment to be placed back on the walls of the school.

Griggs County Central School District agreed to the change on Friday after receiving the Alliance Defending Freedom letter Thursday about the poster, which the school had removed after a parent complained about it.

“Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas,” said Legal Counsel Jon Scruggs. “We commend Griggs County Central High School for believing in this principle and promptly allowing the pro-life poster to be redisplayed.”

In April, the principal of Griggs County Central High School told student Michayla Maertens that the pro-life poster she posted in the school hallway among other student posters would be removed because a parent called and complained about it.

The poster, which consisted of a collage of pro-life messages such as “Life Not Abortion,” was part of a class assignment that required students to advocate a current issue through a specific method of action, such as creating and displaying items at school.

The Alliance Defending Freedom letter explained that the censorship of the student’s pro-life speech violates the First Amendment. The letter explained that “a mere complaint cannot justify silencing expression” and that “the poster did not materially and substantially interfere with the school since the poster hung for approximately two weeks without causing any problems.”

In response, Principal Travis Jordan immediately consulted with other officials and legal counsel and then replied to the letter the following day agreeing to return the poster back to the wall.

“We would like to thank Alliance Defending Freedom for the clarity they provided in their letter,” Jordan wrote. “In regards to the First Amendment and free speech, we feel that there needs to be more clarity for public schools.”

“We know we’ve done our job when we hear that we’ve been able to help schools and students alike by bringing clarity to the freedoms Americans have under the First Amendment,” said Scruggs. “We hope other schools and school districts will follow the example of Griggs County and respond quickly to respecting those freedoms as they did.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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