- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 29, 2007

STAFFORD, Va. (AP) A Colonial Forge High School student has filed a lawsuit against Stafford County’s public-school system for refusing to let her start a pro-life club.

The conservative Alliance Defense Fund is representing the student, who is not named in the lawsuit because she’s a minor claiming her constitutional rights were violated.

“It’s our opinion the school should immediately permit the formation of the pro-life club and we would be glad to settle the lawsuit,” Alliance Defense Fund lawyer David Cortman said.

Colonial Forge Principal Lisa Martin denied the request for the club, saying it doesn’t relate to the curriculum.

However, Mr. Cortman said the school has other clubs that don’t appear to be directly linked with studies — the Young Republicans, Young Democrats and Students Against Destructive Decisions, for example.

School-system policy encourages clubs that “supplement the goals and objectives of the school division.” In a letter to the student, Ms. Martin said the club “does not meet the standard of a direct curricular link.” The family-life curriculum prohibits teachers from discussing abortion, she wrote.

“That strikes me as a weaselly way to avoid creating a controversial club,” George Mason University law professor David Bernstein said.

Schools spokeswoman Valerie Cottongim said school officials do not comment on pending litigation.

Stafford County School Board chairman Robert Belman also declined to comment because the entire board has not discussed the matter. He said he expects the board to take up the issue soon in a closed meeting.

The student’s family contacted the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the girl for free. The suit, filed Sept. 12 in federal court, asks the school division to pay the fund’s legal fees.

Mr. Bernstein said it will be difficult to convince a judge that a partisan political club relates to the curriculum, while a pro-life club does not.

“It strikes me offhand that if they teach civics, any club advocating civic action on any particular issue would be curricular-related,” he said.

Mr. Cortman noted that the platforms of the school’s Republican and Democratic clubs mention abortion.

“Once they do have clubs organized around partisan politics it makes it almost impossible to perceive of a plausible reason to forbid people to organize around ideas,” Mr. Bernstein said.

No hearing date has been set.

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