Students sue CCSD for alleged censorship of anti-abortion club

Current and former members of an anti-abortion club at East Career and Technical Academy are suing the district after claiming they faced discrimination and censorship from school administrators.

Felipe Avila and Jannelle Rivera were both members of the Students for Life Club at Magnetic School in East Las Vegas when they said their First Amendment rights were violated, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in the federal court.

According to the complaint, these violations included students being told they could not hand out flyers or hang banners promoting their club and their anti-abortion message.

“This widespread discrimination and censorship took many forms…and was intended to suppress, and successfully, the pro-life message of the (Students For Life Club),” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the students by lawyers from the Thomas More Society, a conservative legal group.

Avila and Rivera are seeking compensatory and punitive damages and an injunction restraining the district from enforcing its current club policies.

In response to questions about the lawsuit and its policies regarding flyers students can pass around campus, the district said in a statement that it does not comment on pending litigation.

Court case allegations

The complaint describes a number of instances where students said they experienced disparate treatment from school administrators in relation to their club’s operations.

The complaint alleges that the school:

— Prevent the Students for Life Club from distributing flyers promoting a crisis pregnancy center. The centers have come under increased scrutiny in recent years because they do not perform abortions or provide referrals for abortion and instead attempt to advise pregnant women against choosing abortion and opt for other alternatives such as adoption.

– Stopped the club from issuing flyers announcing the date, time and location of its first meeting of the school year because the flyer depicted young people holding signs with pro-life messages like “I reject the abortion”

— Prevented the club from publishing flyers describing health code violations at Planned Parenthood in the school newspaper.

— Stopped the club from hanging a banner that said “Students for Life. The future is anti-abortion” in the school cafeteria.

The complaint also alleges that the school and the district, in particular Superintendent Jesus Jara and Principal Trish Taylor, failed to respond to the cyberbullying that Avila, the club’s founder, experienced from other students. because of his beliefs.

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the landmark Supreme Court case involving student free speech, established that students and teachers “do not waive their constitutional rights to free speech or expression to the school gate.

Possible challenges to freedom of expression?

Athar Haseebullah, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada, said if there were no content-based restrictions on what students can distribute at school, there had to be constitutional rules of the game. fair and equitable.

But free speech issues may exist if there are content-based restrictions on the type of activities students can conduct on campus.

A district policy outlining speech limitations for clubs states that they may not:

— Causing substantial disruption to the educational environment or the mission of the school

— Adversely affect the health, safety or well-being of students and staff

— Bullying, cyberbullying or bullying others

— Running contrary to the law, school board policies and regulations, or school rules

— Be organized, disseminated or supported by the school

Haseebullah said that without all the facts, it is difficult to discern whether the alleged behavior interfered with the rights of other students to access a safe and respectful learning environment.

If that interferes with and can be seen as a potential disruption to students’ ability to engage in their educational experience, “there could be challenges on that front,” he said.

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 702-387-5298 or llonghi@reviewjournal.com. Follow her on @lolonghi on Twitter.

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