North Dakota School Anti-Abortion Clubs Raise Rights Questions


Two students in Fargo, North Dakota are arguing that school administrators violated their constitutional rights when they would not allow them to start an anti-abortion club at local high schools.

A letter was sent from the Thomas More Society, a nonprofit Chicago law firm, to Fargo Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Schatz on behalf of the two students, Brigid O’Keefe of Fargo North High School and Katie McPherson of Davies High School, as well as Students for Life of America.  The letter suggests that the district unconstitutionally discriminated against the rights of students at the schools by not allowing the formation of pro-life clubs.

“Public schools are required by law to treat all student groups equally,” Jocelyn Floyd, an attorney at the Thomas More Society, said in a statement. “However, the school district and administrators at Fargo North and Davies High Schools are treating pro-life students as second class citizens, forcing them to abide by a policy that was designed to protect students from exploitation by businesses, not to censor the students’ own free speech.”

The letter accused the school district of placing the wrong classification on anti-abortion clubs, calling them “outside agencies,” in addition to not allowing the school name to be associated with the club.  The clubs would also be unable to conduct fundraisers, put up posters, or hold events on school grounds.  The letter went on to ask the school district to allow the formation of such clubs, reports Archie Ingersoll for WDAZ.

Both girls claim they were each stopped by school administrators and district officials at their respective schools when they each tried to form anti-abortion clubs.

Katie McPherson, a sophomore at Davies High School, said she had been trying to form the club since September 2014, but school administration has refused to approve the application and would not assign a room for the club to meet.

Brigid O’Keefe, a sophomore at Fargo North, said she submitted her application to start the pro-life club in February 2015.  However, she said she and other potential club members were questioned by school administrators, who asked about religious affiliations, before the club was denied.  The matter was turned over to the district when the students asked them to reconsider.

The district then put both applications together and made a singular decision concerning both schools.

The school district released a statement saying they are taking the allegations seriously and the letter is currently under review by the district’s attorney.

The attorney representing the two girls acknowledged that a court challenge would be possible if the district does not allow the existence of the clubs.