Despite allowing students to form clubs centered around horses, multiculturalism, and the environment, a high school in Fredericksburg, Virginia is citing a lack of “clear relationship to school curriculum” as their reason for denying a student permission to start a pro-life club. Lawyers representing the student – Madison Sutherland – say that isn’t good enough. They’ve sent a demand letter to Courtland High School’s principal urging him to reverse the decision.
Sutherland is represented by lawyers from the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative public interest firm based in Michigan. They contend that Courtland’s principal – Larry Marks – has denied Sutherland’s application without providing a legally sound reason for doing so. In their letter to school officials, Thomas More lawyers insist they are prepared to take the matter to court if necessary.
Sutherland has been trying to get the group started since September 23rd. After waiting much longer than the requisite 10-day approval window, the school rejected the pro-life group because of the curriculum issues noted above. They also informed Sutherland that she had failed to include constitution by-laws with her application, giving them another reason to reject the proposed group.
Sutherland’s lawyers say it’s a bogus reason, noting that Courtland’s application forms allow for some wiggle room when it comes to curriculum links. “As for the proposed club’s alleged lack of any link to the school curriculum, the application form itself concedes that the supposed requirement is not applicable to all groups–instead it asks students to explain the link ‘if applicable,’” lawyers wrote. “Selectively enforcing this ‘requirement’ against Maddie and her group is obvious discrimination.”
As for the by-laws, Sutherland re-submitted her application on October 24th with the necessary adjustments. Two weeks passed without any word from school officials. Sutherland took her case straight to Marks himself, who told her that he would get back to her at some point in the following week. This apparently did not happen since Sutherland felt compelled to seek legal counsel.
Whether Courtland High School caves to pressure or not, the case illustrates a willingness on the part of public schools to selectively discriminate when it comes to controversial topics. All too often, the ones discriminated against are conservatives like Sutherland who dare to stand up against the monolithic left.
As for Sutherland’s quest, it may be in vain. Spotslyvania County Director of Communications Rene Daniels released a statement saying that the application was in the process of being reviewed. However, the statement also points out that any applications received after June 1st would, if approved, only “enable the club to be in place for 2015-2016 school year.” Sutherland – a senior – may not be around to see the fruits of her labor.