UNION, Ky. — Anti-abortion advocates have accused a Boone County high school of unlawfully censoring a pro-life student group.
In a letter submitted Tuesday to Larry A. Ryle High School Principal Matthew Turner, attorneys representing the nationwide anti-abortion organization Students for Life of America demanded the school allow the group to display fliers they say Turner deemed “too controversial” for school grounds.
According to the letter, Turner asked senior Patrick Edwards — who is also president of the student group Ryle Students for Life — to meet to “discuss problems” with fliers posted promoting the group’s message during freshman orientation.
The letter states that Turner required all Ryle Students for Life fliers be submitted for his approval prior to posting them on campus, at which point Edwards provided seven options, six of which were denied.
The flier Turner approved, the group says, features a photograph of Anne Frank as well as a quote: “How wonderful is it that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” The poster then indicates the time and location of the group’s next meeting.
SFLA said one of the rejected fliers featured an image of Mother Teresa holding an infant, with a quote reading: “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
Ultimately, the letter charges that the school’s administration “banned Patrick’s expression solely upon its specific message and viewpoint.”
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“By actively denying Patrick his right to put up pro-life flyers on behalf of the Ryle Students for Life club because they promote the pro-life message is outright discrimination,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of SFLA, in a release Tuesday. “The school has no right to censor a message because they deem it to be controversial.”
The letter also charges Ryle Students for Life are being held to a double-standard, arguing “at the same time [Turner] chose to censor Students for Life… [he] allowed dozens of other student posters to be freely displayed in the high school.”
“Other students clubs and students have been allowed to post flyers taking various positions,” Edwards said in the group’s release. “I was specifically told my fliers could not be posted because the issue was too controversial.”
But Turner told WCPO that, while school officials are still reviewing the letter, "We believe that our school procedures are in full compliance with the law.
"We do not discriminate against student organizations — or anyone in general — on basis of race, gender, religion, creed, ethnicity or background," Turner said.
Tuner said that, because SFLA's attorneys have threatened litigation, he could not go into detail regarding the specific fliers in question.
The letter demanded Turner provide the group and its attorneys written assurance by October 20 at 5 p.m. that Ryle Students for Life will be permitted to post their fliers, including those Turner initially banned.