An Indiana high schooler is continuing the fight to gain official recognition for a pro-life student club after school officials rejected it and accused its advertising of being too “political.”

A Noblesville High School student identified in court documents as “E.D.” is asking the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court decision upholding the school’s derecognition of its Students for Life of America chapter.

The legal advocacy organization Alliance Defending Freedom, which specializes in religious freedom cases and is representing the student, entered its appeal in the 7th Circuit last month, joined by the Charitable Allies law firm.


E.D. had attempted to start an SFLA chapter in 2021. The student received approval from the principal to start the Noblesville Students for Life club, and more than 30 people signed up for the group at the school’s fall activities fair, according to a statement from ADF.

The school objected to a flyer E.D. posted to advertise a club meeting that depicted students holding signs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. The students in the photos held signs bearing slogans such as “I Reject Abortion,” “Defund Planned Parenthood” and “I Am the Pro-Life Generation.”

“Students don’t forfeit their free speech when they walk into the school building,” the ADF stated. “All students have the constitutional right to express their ideas without fear of being silenced by school officials and having their clubs unrecognized.”

A spokesperson for Noblesville Schools maintained that the administration did not “redirect” the group because it opposed the pro-life club’s mission. The spokesperson stated that E.D.’s club was approved and sponsored by high school faculty but the school took action concerning “multiple instances of disregard for school protocols.”

“All student special interest clubs must be initiated and led by students — they cannot be directed or controlled by school staff or others in the community,” the spokesperson stated. “We’re currently working to ensure club compliance with state laws and school policy. Once the club meets these, we will reevaluate their status.”

According to the March ruling from federal Judge Sarah Evans Barker, a Reagan appointee, school officials felt that the poster was too “political.”

The dean of Students, Jeremy Luna, instructed E.D. to fix the posters, saying that the flyer could not include a “picket” where people held signs that stated “Defund Planned Parenthood.”

Officials also had concerns that the group was led by an adult instead of students, according to the ruling. The student had asked her mother to attend a September 2021 meeting with Luna about the club’s callout meeting date because of a family rule prohibiting her from being alone with an adult.

Luna later spoke with Principal Craig McCaffrey about the meeting with E.D. and her mother, saying that he felt that the latter was “driving the conversation.” The principal eventually emailed E.D.’s mother, informing her that a poster cannot contain “content that is political or that could disrupt the school environment.”

“Club advertising posters only state the name of the club and the details of the meeting time and location,” McCaffrey stated in the email. “When the students actually meet, they are able to talk about their common interests.”

“In his email, Dr. McCaffrey stated that because he was no longer ‘confident that this club is a student-driven club,’ he “therefore [was] removing the club’s approval to meet in the school,'” the March ruling recounted.

McCaffrey also informed E.D.’s mother that the high school was “revamping” its club approval process due to a “large number of requests.” The principal also told E.D.’s mother that her daughter could contact the high school assistant principal if she wanted to “apply for her club again next semester.”

The school district spokesperson shared the school’s statement from March regarding the court ruling, adding that Noblesville “support[s] our students forming clubs they’re passionate about and have dozens of student-led clubs representing a wide range of interests, activities, and beliefs. This includes an active Students for Life club at Noblesville High School.”

Kristi Hamrick, vice president of media and policy at Students For Life of America and its sister organization, Students for Life Action, told CP that the organization “stands with students attempting to engage in the life of their schools.

“It’s very common for pro-life students to face obstacles, such as unexplained or secret policies, a heckler’s veto when those who oppose a pro-life message can shut down an event, extra fees, or a slow walk to nowhere,” Hamrick stated. “Schools can make demands of students starting groups, but it has to been one standard for all.”

In response to the March ruling, SFLA President Kristan Hawkins asserted that pro-life Americans often have to shoulder the “burden” of dealing with a “weaponized judicial system.”

“The decision also tries to say that the violation of a student’s rights didn’t really matter because the board of trustees could have made a different call. But in depositions — as cited in the briefing — the authority to make decisions about student groups was delegated to the principal.” Hawkins said.


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