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ACLU Sides With Pro-Life High Schooler Suing School District

Abortion protesters

Protesters on both sides of the abortion issue rally outside the Supreme Court

A CCSD high schooler is taking the district to court.

Angelique Clark is suing the Clark County School District for the right to form a pro-life club.

The district denied her request. Angelique said school officials told her the club would be too controversial.

She disagreed, saying her civil rights were being denied.

Tod Story, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said Angelique does have a case.

"The First Amendment guarantees her right, or any student's right, to assemble at the school as long as she is treated no differently than any other potential student club that would want to organize as well," Story said.

The right to free speech and the right to assemble means Angelique can start her pro-life club, and another student can start a pro-choice club, while another starts a chess club.

Story said there are really only a few reasons that a school can deny a student's request to start a club. First, if the club falls under the so-called "fighting words" doctrine outlined by the U.S. Supreme Court, which outlaws speech that insights violence. 

Second, the club cannot be in direct opposition of the school's or the district's policies, for example, policies against discrimination. 

"Her First Amendment right protects her right to speech so the controversial nature of the club is protected under the First Amendment," Story explained.

A club must also be started by a student not by a member of the faculty, staff or administration and not by an adult outside the school, Story said, because it could open the door for adults using children for their own agendas, "You have outside interests potentially organizing students for other purposes rather students organizing themselves on campus." 

However, a club must have a teacher as an advisor, and the school cannot interfere in this aspect either. The school can't tell teachers not to be advisors to clubs the school or district does not agree with. 

Story said Education Secretary Arne Duncan outlined to school districts the exact do's and don'ts of student clubs earlier this year, essentially tell them "they have to recognize all, if they recognize one."


Tod Story, executive director, ACLU of Nevada

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)