ADF letter prompts New York high school to accept conservative student club

ADF represents student at Harrison High School
Wednesday, January 13, 2021

HARRISON, N.Y. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a Harrison High School student and his conservative student club have secured official recognition from school district officials allowing the group equal access to resources and the ability to recruit new members.

In June, ADF sent a letter on behalf of student Luke Wong, who applied in April 2019 for recognition of Harrison Young Americans for Freedom. The letter explained that the school’s refusal to recognize the club, which would be an independent student group affiliated with the national Young America’s Foundation organization, was unconstitutional and violated the federal Equal Access Act. The COVID-19 situation delayed the school’s response multiple times, but it has now relented, certified the club’s faculty advisor, and acknowledged the club’s official status.

“Students have the constitutionally protected freedom to organize around their shared beliefs. Public school officials can’t refuse to recognize a student organization for arbitrary reasons, especially when they have approved a whole host of other clubs formed around civic, political, and social interests,” said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton. “The First Amendment doesn’t permit a public school to play favorites when approving student organizations, and students organizing Young Americans for Freedom should never been made to fight for almost two years and threaten legal action just to receive equal recognition.”

Harrison High School currently recognizes 35 different clubs on campus, including non-curricular social and civic clubs such as Friends of Rachel, the Gay-Straight Alliance, Relay for Life, Youth to Youth, and Youth Volunteers of Harrison.

“Public schools should be fostering real diversity of thought, not discriminating against groups based on their political beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Today’s students will be tomorrow’s voters and civic leaders. That’s why it’s so important that Harrison High School and other public schools exemplify the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students.”

“The Harrison YAF chapter deserves the same equal access to school resources as every other student organization on campus,” said YAF Spokesman Spencer Brown. “Because it is completely inappropriate for school officials to treat students differently because of their beliefs, we’re grateful that Harrison High recognized the club and avoided needless litigation so that these students can participate in the marketplace of ideas on equal footing with other viewpoints.”
 
  • Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-uhr)

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
 
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