Every once in a while, a religious right legal group gets one right. This is such a case. The Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly the Alliance Defense Fund) has filed suit on behalf of a student who was told he could not hand out anti-abortion fliers to his fellow students during lunch time.
In late February, the 6th-grade student and her friends at Nova Classical Academy peacefully handed out pro-life fliers at lunchtime to friends and classmates interested in the topic. One of the fliers read, “Save the baby humans. Stop abortion.”
A few days later, they were called into the school director’s office and told that some students find pro-life fliers offensive and that they were no longer allowed to pass them out during or after school hours, even if students requested them. School policy also requires students to obtain “prior approval from an administrator” before engaging in free speech.
In an e-mail to the student’s parents, the school’s executive director claimed that the content of the fliers was inconsistent with the school’s educational mission and that “such political activism is limited to students in the School of Rhetoric [the high school] only.”
“The school has a right to censor students without violating their free speech,” the director wrote. “In short, public schools have every right to prohibit student speech.”
No, they don’t. As long as it is not disruptive to the school’s academic operations, the First Amendment applies to students. And if you think this isn’t the case, ask yourself how you would feel if the viewpoint being expressed was one you agreed with. If you think the school should be allowed to censor this viewpoint but would be angry if the school forbid a student from handing our fliers endorsing separation of church and state, or supporting LGBT equality, then you simply do not understand the concept of free speech.