Last summer, the Secular Student Alliance formed a strategic partnership with the Freedom From Religion Foundation in order to protect the rights of young atheists. It was a match made in hell, in all the right ways.
Looks like that partnership is being put to use thanks to a developing situation in North Carolina, where administrators at Pisgah High School in Canton are refusing to allow an atheist club to form:
After first meeting with Assistant Principal Connie Weeks, the student was told that Weeks needed to “look into” the formation of the group. At subsequent meetings, the student was told by Weeks that they should just join a different club, because the secular club didn’t “fit in” to the community at Pisgah High School, and there were no faculty sponsors available — despite the Equal Access Act stating that if a sponsor couldn’t be found, the administration is required to assign one.
What does that even mean, it doesn’t “fit in”?! That’s why a lot of student groups form in the first place: because the kids who don’t fit in with most of their classmates want to create a community for themselves. Weeks is basically telling students who are already marginalized that they can’t have a group because… they’re too marginalized. And odds are she figured her dismissal would be enough to put an end to the issue, not realizing the student in question knew the rules as well as she did and would call for reinforcements.
The SSA played “Good Cop” months ago, sending a civil letter to the school’s principal, only to get no response in return.
Now, FFRF along with the ACLU of North Carolina are getting involved, with a much more detailed letter to the district’s superintendent:
Preventing Pisgah High students from forming an SSA group not only violates the law but is also bad policy. Nonreligious and non-Christian students within Pisgah High should have an equal opportunity to make their school a better place for themselves and their classmates. If students want to build a community as a nonreligious minority, they should be allowed to do so.
There’s just no excuse for administrators to deny an atheist group from forming when it appears that they have no problem with a Fellowship of Christian Athletes group at the school.
Cash Wilson, the father of the student who wants to start the group, fully supports what his daughter is doing:
“As both a parent and secular activist, I am inspired by the tenacity of these teenagers who didn’t cower in their corners but instead contacted their friends and advocates at the SSA,” said Cash Wilson, the father of the student in question. “A secular club is a welcome addition to any school, but especially a school here in the zealous mountains of North Carolina. It will help secular students will no longer feel alone and ostracized. My full respect and admiration to the student activists, the fine folks at SSA, the FFRF legal team, and the North Carolina ACLU.”
Wilson isn’t kidding about his own activism. We last saw him in November, when, in response to a local school district accepting posters proclaiming “In God We Trust,” he got the district to accept more posters that celebrated the Treaty of Tripoli and said “… the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
Best of luck to Wilson’s daughter and her classmates for not letting up and continuing to fight for their group. They’re on the right side of the issue. Now it’s up to the administrators to realize that and join them.